Wednesday, September 21, 2011

USDA, FDA Get An F on Livestock Antibiotics

If you think government agencies responsible for food safety are effective, think again.  Tom Laskawy of Grist reports.
In December, the FDA revealed for the first time that every year 29 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to animals -- often through the dangerous technique of administering low-dose, growth-promoting hormones to livestock via their feed. In total, that figure represents 80% of all antibiotics used in the US. As Grist has covered extensively, there is broad scientific consensus that this practice creates antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" that threaten both animals and humans.

Despite pressure from public health experts and food and farm advocates, the FDA and USDA's progress on addressing this problem has been agonizingly slow. In the latest development, the federal government's main watchdog group, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new report [PDF] documenting the many shortfalls of the USDA and FDA's approach.

Although the report clearly states, "[t]he use of antibiotics in animals poses a potential human health risk," the two agencies have not put adequate systems in place to either track or assess the risks of antibiotics overuse. The few systems that do exist are problematic and lack teeth.

 

 
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