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FDA supports banning antibiotics for growth promotion, feed efficiency

Published on 14 July, 2009, Last updated at 04:37 GMT

The Food & Drug Administration's second highest ranking official, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, testified today that his agency "supports ending the use of antibiotics for growth and feed efficiency in the United States."

He made the statement during a hearing before the House Rules Committee. Sharfstein testified "there is clear evidence that the use of antimicrobials in general selects for resistant organisms under conditions of constant exposure (growth promotion/feed efficiency) to antibiotics, the use of antimicrobials should be limited to those situations where human and animal health are protected."

Sharfstein told reporters that it was the first time FDA had publicly stated the position, but he noted that it applies so far only to seven antimicrobials that are considered important for use in human medicine.

FDA is not opposed to the use of ionophores at this time, he said.

In a second noteworthy statement, Sharfstein also testified FDA now "believes all medications used in animal agriculture "should be under the supervision of a veterinarian." He explained that means the over-the-counter sales of antibiotics for veterinary use should end.

Sharfstein and several witnesses testified on HOUR 1549, a bill sponsored by House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.). The bill, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009, would require the Secretary of Health & Human Services to deny an application for a new animal drug that is a critical animal drug unless the applicant demonstrates that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health resulting from antimicrobial resistance, according to the Congressional Research Service. Additionally, the bill requires the withdrawal of a nontherapeutic use of such drugs in food producing animals two years after the date of enactment “unless certain safety requirements are met,” CRS reports.

None of the Republicans on the Rules Committee attended today's hearing. In answer to allegations last week that Chairman Slaughter had stacked the hearing with witnesses that favored her bill, her press secretary, Vincent Morris, told Feedstuffs that Republicans were informed of the hearing at least two weeks ago and were asked to propose witnesses for the hearing that would represent the views of the veterinary profession and animal agriculture so there could be a full discussion on antimicrobial use and resistance issues. But that Republicans neither produced a witness list, and none attended the hearing. "They had more than enough time...we are very, very disappointed."

Rep. Leonard Boswell, an Iowa farmer, recounted key points of testimony from the livestock industry given last year at a hearing he chaired in his House agriculture livestock subcommittee. Slaughter has agreed to include the record of that hearing in the record of today's hearing, Morris said.


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