Food and Cuisine

Published on March 23rd, 2012 | by Vivian Nelson Melle


FDA Ordered to Take Action on Antibiotic Overuse on LIvestock

A federal judge, Theodore H. Katz of New York’s Southern District, ruled on Thursday March 22, 2012 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must act now to address the dangers of antibiotic overuse in livestock production. After 35 years of turning a blind eye regarding the irresponsible usage of antibiotics in factory farming, the court is finally taking action that can save Americans from potentially fatal drug resistant superbug infections.

The lawsuit filed in 2011 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizen, and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) resulted from growing concerns regarding the long term health affects following exposure to these antibiotics through consumption of livestock, namely the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacterias known as superbugs.

factory cattle

Factory cattle

Why Are These Antibiotics Dangerous

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is just one of the superbugs traced to antibiotic overuse in livestock. MRSA often presents as a rash or skin eruption which can quickly grow beyond treatable methods and even expand into the lungs, urinary tract and throughout the bloodstream. A small wound is all that’s need to introduce the bacteria making even the slightest paper cuts a potentially life-threatening portal. While the illness posses more danger to those who are young, elderly or have deficient immune systems, health officials are alarmed by the number of healthy patients losing their lives from the effects of MRSA infections.

{cc photo courtesy of Compassion in World Farming on Flickr}

antibiotics are administered to cattle via syringe

Antibiotics are administered to cattle via syringe

What Does This Ruling Mean?

According to the NRDC, the FDA must now force drug companies to produce evidence that antibiotics used on livestock is safe and effective. These drugs are given to all animals regardless if illness is present forcing bugs to become stronger and eventually immune to the effects of antibiotics. According the the NRDC Press Release, in 1977 the FDA ruled there was evidence that antibiotic use in livestock could create drug resistant bacteria leading to increased risk to human health and safety. Yet, for 35-years the FDA allowed the practice to continue. The ruling forces the truth out into the public forum where the business-as-usual antics are less likely to be permitted by federal agencies or, more importantly, the public.

{cc photo courtesy of Andres Rueda on Flickr}

cows from organic farm

Cows from an organic farm

The Silver Lining Small Farmers Need

While the ruling may cause major corporate farms to evolve to more earth-friendly practices, organic and other small farmers will not feel the negative affects. Many small farms do not use the practices of mass inoculation of antibiotics because the conditions under which they keep livestock do need increase the chances for illness. Free range animals with room to graze and eat their natural diets are less likely to suffer from the illnesses targeted by antibiotics. Smaller farms are better able to address the needs of sick animals and quarantine them before illness spreads as opposed to factory farms where dead and possibly diseased animals can go days before being found or are simply left suffering among the other animals, infecting them.

Now is the time for farms to reevaluate the work they do, if they haven’t done so, and look to the ways of the past. It could possibly be the chance many small local farmers have been waiting for as customers learn more about where their food comes from they may be more open to and seek out compassionate farms using clean raising rather than drug treatment.

The decision to remove unnecessary antibiotic use from livestock production is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and USDA, among many others.

{cc photo courtesy of suzettesuzette on Flickr}

{Source: NRDC: Press Release}

How do you feel about the ruling? Is antibiotic use in livestock something that concerns you?

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About the Author

Vivian Nelson Melle is a writer and life coach helping individuals, families, and businesses thrive. She supports small businesses especially in the areas of Green Living, Health, and Wellness. She can be found at and

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