An Ongoing Regulatory Failure – Antibiotics in Animal Feed

by Diana R. H. Winters

A few weeks back, the New York Times published an article about continuing publicity campaigns by drugmakers to sell antibiotics to farmers for use in healthy animals.  In “Warning of ‘Pig Zero’: One Drugmaker’s Push to Sell More Antibiotics,” Danny Hakim and Matt Richtel discuss the recent (and not-so-recent) regulatory attempts to curtail antibiotic use in animal feed and show how one drugmaker has worked to maneuver around these obstacles to continue selling massive amounts of antibiotics to farmers.

Particularly striking in this article is the explanation of how antibiotic overuse affects human health:

“The connection of overuse of antibiotics in livestock to human health takes two         paths: As bacteria develop defenses against drugs widely used in animals, those defense mechanisms can spread to other bacteria that infect humans; and, resistant germs are transmitted from livestock to humans — through undercooked meat, farm-animal feces seeping into waterways, waste lagoons that overflow after natural disasters like Hurricane Florence, or when farm workers and others come into contact with animals.”

And how this connection is misconstrued by pharmaceutical companies:

“Mr. Simmons of Elanco has long played down livestock’s role in spreading resistant microbes to humans.

‘The most serious pathogens are not related to antibiotics used in food animals,’ he said. ‘Of the 18 major antibiotic-resistant threats that the C.D.C. tracks, only two, campylobacter and nontyphoidal salmonella, are associated with animals.’

But such oft-repeated statements, made even in Elanco’s securities filings, refer only to food-borne strains like antibiotic-resistant salmonella that can be found in raw chicken, for example, while ignoring the myriad ways pathogens can be transferred.”

Also striking is the discussion of research linking the rise in C.Diff. infections, as well as in E. coli and MRSA infections, and the use of antibiotics in livestock:

“There is a growing body of research establishing links between Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, in livestock and humans, viewed by the C.D.C. as an urgent threat. Broad-spectrum antibiotics in livestock provide “a survival advantage to antibiotic-resistant C. difficile strains,” according to a 2018 study by Australian researchers. Similar studies exist for E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA — the C.D.C. even lists different animals like cows, goats, sheep and deer that can pass E. coli to humans.”

Disturbing on many levels, the article highlights how federal attempts to regulate antibiotics, while laudable, have fallen short.

 

See our prior post on a previous N.Y. Times article on this issue here.

Food Law News

Today was just chock full of food law & policy news.

1. The Supreme Court turned down challenges to two of California’s animal welfare laws: A) Proposition 2, California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, which mandates that the state’s farm animals need be able to “turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs,” and B) CA’s foie gras ban.

The New Food Economy has a good summary of these laws and the challenges here: https://newfoodeconomy.org/supreme-court-animal-welfare-law-cage-free-egg-foie-gras-ban/

2. A federal judge in Iowa found the state’s “ag gag” law unconstitutional, saying that it violates the First Amendment.  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2019/01/09/ag-gag-law-iowa-struck-down-federal-judge-ia-agriculture-first-amendment-free-speech-puppy-mills/2527077002/

3. The government shutdown’s effect on food safety inspections has been widely noted: https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/424562-fda-says-most-food-inspections-have-been-halted-amid-shutdown.  FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb weighed in on Twitter, however, to explain that the FDA has NOT stopped inspections, but has postponed a small amount of routine inspections.  He wrote, “Food Safety During Shutdown: We’re taking steps to expand the scope of food safety surveillance inspections we’re doing during the shutdown to make sure we continue inspecting high risk food facilities. 31% of our inventory of domestic inspections are considered high risk…”

See thread: https://twitter.com/SGottliebFDA/status/1083055700593516545

He also explained, “We wouldn’t have conducted inspections during the 2 weeks around Christmas and New Years, so this is really the first week where there might have been *some* inspections postponed while we put in place mechanisms to continue high risk food surveillance inspections during shutdown”

For more discussion on the background of food safety inspections, and for fantastic food policy tweeting in general see Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich’s tweets: https://twitter.com/hbottemiller

 

 

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑