Health Professionals Ask President Obama and FDA to End Non-Therapeutic Use of Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture in a Letter Co-Sponsored by Health Care Without Harm

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Letter from health professionals urges President to pressure FDA to act on stalled antibiotics policies to protect public health.

"Current patterns of antibiotic use in agriculture not only increase the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections in people but also support an agricultural system that harms public and environmental health," --Ted Schettler, MD.

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), Healthy Food Action, and the Pew Charitable Trusts delivered a letter with signatures from 795 health professionals to President Barack Obama today, urging him to pressure the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on stalled policies to reduce the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animal production.

"Current patterns of antibiotic use in agriculture not only increase the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections in people but also support an agricultural system that harms public and environmental health," says Ted Schettler, MD, Science Director for the Science and Environmental Health Network and Science Advisor for HCWH.

Close to 30 million pounds of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animal agriculture. Most of these are used for non-therapeutic purposes like promoting growth and compensating for overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions. Many of these antibiotics are also medically important, and used to treat illnesses in humans.

“There is overwhelming scientific consensus that overuse of antibiotics in livestock is a health hazard to people,” says Thomas Newman, MD, a member of the faculty at the School of Medicine at University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. More than 300 leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have advocated ending the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics as feed additives.

"The antibiotic resistance crisis is growing worse each day. Physicians are seeing more and more patients with antibiotic resistant infections in hospitals, and we are cleaning up our own act by curbing our own overuse of antibiotics in clinical practice,” states Robert Gould, MD, President of San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility. “But this is not enough. We now recognize that feeding healthy animals antibiotics contributes enormously to this problem. As health professionals fundamentally concerned with the health of our patients, we urge President Obama to demonstrate his leadership on this issue by joining our demand that the livestock industry and the FDA promptly correct this serious threat to public health.”

The letter asks the President to pressure the FDA to move forward with mandatory withdrawals of unsafe uses of antibiotics, and to publicly report better data on livestock antibiotic sales to inform the public health community about emerging disease threats. The letter can be found online.

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Eileen Secrest
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