American farmers have been feeding antibiotics to their livestock (which includes cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys) since the 1950s, claiming that the practice keeps the animals healthier and enables them to grow faster.
Only 20% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to people who are sick with bacterial infections, such as ear and urinary tract infections and pneumonia. Most of the penicillin, tetracycline and other antibiotic drugs used in this country are given to livestock that are perfectly healthy.
Faced with increasing bacterial drug resistance world-wide, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been expressing concern about agricultural use of some antibiotics for decades and recently indicated that it plans to regulate a broader range of drugs than was proposed in the past.
This week the FDA announced that it is banning “extralabel” or unapproved use of cephalosporins in animals, beginning April 5, 2012.
“We believe this is an imperative step in preserving the effectiveness of this class of important antimicrobials that takes into account the need to protect the health of both humans and animals,” said Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods.