The Food and Drug Administration Wednesday advised companies to change the labels on their drugs to make it illegal for livestock producers to use drugs for "growth promotion" or "feed efficiency." The announcement is the latest step in a long-running effort by the FDA to reduce the use of antibiotics in agriculture.
No one knows exactly how farmers use antibiotics. Many public health experts say the government should collect and publish detailed information because antibiotic-resistant bacteria are an increasingly urgent problem. But many farm groups are opposed.
Farmers give antibiotics routinely to pigs, beef cattle and poultry. They say the drugs help keep animals healthy and get them to market faster. Others say this practice practically guarantees that bacteria will develop resistance to these antibiotics more quickly, endangering human lives and the long-term viability of the drugs.
There's a curious twist in the contentious debate over feeding antibiotics to animals in order to make them grow faster. Evidence suggests using antibiotics for growth promotion, at least among pigs, doesn't even make economic sense. But some pork producers don't believe it.