Groups Sue FDA Over Factory Farm Antibiotic Abuse

Cow in a confined cage.

Fed up with the meat industry’s over-use of antibiotics, several environmental groups are suing the FDA for not taking more action on the issue.

Despite consumer concerns and even FDA recommendations, the factory meat industry has rejected recommended restrictions limiting antibiotic use on farms.

Antibiotic Abuse and Resistant Bacteria

The trouble with antibiotic use on factory farms isn’t that farmers are using medicine to treat sick animals. Because of the unsanitary conditions among animals living in confinement like they do on factory farms, they get sick a lot. Rather than treat animals as they become ill, these big agricultural operations give animals “subtherapeutic” antibiotics, meaning they’re receiving these medications preventatively rather than as-needed and to help promote growth.

Over time, bacteria in these operations become resistant to the antibiotics that farmers are using, breeding “superbugs” that require stronger treatments or that in some cases are just untreatable.

These superbugs don’t stick around on the farms. They can be spread by insects, for example, and have been linked to outbreaks far from the farm.

The Farm Antibiotics Lawsuit

Last year, the FDA recommended that farms stop using subtherapeutic antibiotic treatments as a public health measure, but they didn’t propose any firm rules. A recommendation is just a guideline, and farmers can take it or leave it. Most have opted to leave it. Fed up with the agency’s soft action on antibiotics, a number of groups are now suing the FDA.

Groups like the NRDC and Union of Concerns Scientists are saying that FDA broke the law by ignoring its own recommendations when it comes to farm antibiotic abuse. They want the FDA to make it illegal to administer antibiotics to animals through food and water, which it deemed unsafe as far back as 1977. The groups also want to see the FDA respond to the numerous citizen petitions on farm antibiotics.

What do you guys think about this lawsuit? Do you think it will be effective? Are you concerned about farm antibiotics abuse? Sound off in the comments!

h/t: Wired

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by calmaction

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