Animal Antibiotics & the FDA Commissioner

On Thursday, March 13, there was more discussion about the use of antibiotics in animal feed. While Guidance 213 was put into place to help lessen antibiotic use, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren, a democrat from Massachusetts, wonders how effective the plan will be.

Sen. Warren questioned Margaret Hamburg, the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner about whether or not enough is being done to rid antibiotics from Americans’ plates. Guidance 213 is a voluntary plan to phase out some antibiotics on farms. Announced in December, the plan focuses on ridding the food industry from antibiotics used to make animals grow faster and more efficiently than would otherwise be possible.

Overall, the response to this plan has been positive. The Animal Health Institute and the Generic Animal Drug Alliance has agreed to stop approving drugs meant solely for increasing production. They are also planning to change products that were previously available over-the-counter so that buyers need to obtain a prescription and go through licensed veterinarians.

The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has been receiving feedback from affected parties, and so far, the feedback has been positive.

Sen. Warren and others have pointed out many concerns. Firstly, antibiotics will still be available for use when it comes to disease prevention and treatment. While she recognizes that antibiotics are sometimes necessary, Warren argues that they are routinely used much too frequently.

Keeve Nachman of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future agrees. He has noted that while the label may change, that may very well be all the change that will happen. Nachman is concerned that food producers will still use the product for purposes other than health concerns.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has also been involved in this conflict. They have heard that manufactures aren’t concerned with the financial aspect of changing the use of antibiotics. Many people are worried that manufacturers will have a change of heart if they find that their profit margins are decreasing.

Hamburg has asserted that Guidance 213 will make “a real and an enduring difference.” Because veterinarians will now be in charge of prescribing the use of antibiotics, Hamburg argues that they will be used less often.

Warren rebutted that veterinarians could just prescribe the antibiotics for a different use. Instead of buying antibiotics over-the-counter, professionals in the food producing industry could just get it from their veterinarian by asking for preventative medication.

Hamburg has commented that the FDA will be able to work with veterinarians so that the plan could be used as intended.