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A new rule that aims to safeguard essential antibiotics for humans by limiting their use in food animals is now fully in effect.

Under the Food and Drug Administration policy, antibiotics that have been designated “medically important” — in other words, they’re needed to treat people — cannot legally be given to healthy animals to speed their growth. The policy, three years in the making, required producers of agricultural antibiotics to change labeling on the drugs to make clear they should not be used for so-called growth promotion. All manufacturers agreed to abide by the new rule.


The policy also requires that from now on, food animals can only be given medically important drugs under the supervision of a veterinarian — a move designed to restrict their use to the treatment of animal illnesses.

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  • I like most people are concerned with over use of antibiotics in any instance. Our food sources should be safe from added chemicals that are used irresponsibly. However, these blanket actions of prohibiting antibiotics in live stock food sources go too far. In fact, I find it rather telling that such actions lack the ability to discern when they are needed, and when they are not. I understand that targeted use can be difficult, but it also indicates the “assembly line” mentality being used leading to over use. Animal suffering is an issue for me and I wonder how this blanket action is going to contribute to that. While it might be too idealistic, I would like to see veterinarian medicine applied appropriately when needed. I also do not want to consume animal products that have negated disease control simply because the industry will not have the decency to know the health of their live stock at any particular moment. Like all issues we face, there needs to be a middle ground where best practices for all can be followed.

    • This policy doesn’t affect use of antibiotics to cure or even prevent disease in animals. It’s simply aimed at trying to stop the practice of using the drugs for growth promotion — giving perfectly healthy animals antibiotics because doing so has been found to make food animals grow faster. Faster growth = shorter production times = lower costs.

    • Sorry for the confusion.
      Manufacturers voluntarily agreed to change the labels on their products containing antibiotics deemed medically important for human health. That’s the voluntary part.
      The label changes eliminate any references to use of the products for growth promotion purposes and require that the drugs be sold under veterinary oversight only.
      The ban is now in effect. From Jan. 1, US drug makers cannot sell medically important antibiotics for growth promotion and stores cannot sell them over-the-counter.

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