News / USA

Lawsuit Filed to Stop Antibiotic Use in Healthy Livestock

Health experts argue constant exposure to drug undermines effectiveness in treating human disease

Animals in many large livestock-raising operations around the world get a small but steady dose of certain antibiotics in their feed.
Animals in many large livestock-raising operations around the world get a small but steady dose of certain antibiotics in their feed.

Multimedia

Audio

American health advocates have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. food regulatory agency to stop a practice they believe is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide.  

Many large-scale livestock producers around the world feed small amounts of antibiotics to healthy animals to help them grow better. But public health experts say constant exposure is encouraging bacteria to develop resistance to the drugs, undermining their effectiveness in treating human disease.

The new lawsuit is the latest round in the long-running battle over antibiotic use in livestock.

Routine practice

Farmers started adding small doses of antibiotics to their livestock feed around 50 years ago, after scientists discovered the drugs improved the animals' growth. The practice became routine, and it is now commonplace in large livestock operations in many countries. Controversy over the practice arose soon after it began as public health experts observed antibiotic-resistant bacteria growing in these animals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first proposed a ban on this use of antibiotics in 1977, but Congress ordered more research.

Steve Roach, with the advocacy group Food Animal Concerns Trust, says evidence has been mounting since then, but the FDA still has not acted. "After 30 years, I think it's time for someone to put a little more pressure on them. And that's what the aim of the lawsuit is."

Roach's group and four other major environmental and consumer groups are suing the FDA to ban the use of two common antibiotics at levels below what is used to treat a sick animal.  FDA officials declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Last June, the agency did recommend that livestock producers phase out the use of antibiotics to promote growth. But Roach notes it was just that: a recommendation. "As far as we can tell, all they were trying to do was kindly ask the industry to make changes. And we just don't believe that's adequate response."

Inconclusive evidence?

The livestock industry says the evidence linking resistant human infections to the farm is not conclusive. And proponents of low-level antibiotic use note that besides promoting growth, the drugs have a therapeutic effect that helps suppress diseases once common in large, confined populations of food animals.

Ron Phillips with the Animal Health Institute, an animal-drug trade association, says that means a safer food supply. "Sicker animals result in greater contamination on the meat. So, the way to control pathogens on the farm so that they don't transfer through the food chain is to make sure we have healthy farm animals."

Antibiotic use in healthy farm animals is not the only source of resistant bacteria. Experts say the largest contributor is antibiotic misuse among people.

But consumers are growing concerned about the effects these drugs might be having on the food they eat. The European Union has banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. New Zealand and South Korea have restricted the use of antibiotics in livestock as well, and other countries are considering similar moves.

Some analysts believe that regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, livestock producers who want to sell meat to these lucrative markets will need to change how they use antibiotics.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid