WEDNESDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday called on food producers, drug companies and veterinarians to help limit the use of antibiotics in farm animals.
The practice of mixing antibiotics in animal feed to make livestock, pigs and chickens gain weight and become more resistant to disease has been criticized for years in many quarters. Health experts contend that this overuse of antibiotics has led to an increase of germs -- such as staph -- that are growing increasingly resistant to antibiotics, threatening human health.
The FDA said it was issuing three documents to help veterinarians, farmers and animal producers use medically important antibiotics "judiciously" by limiting their use only to combat diseases and other health problems in animals. Under this "voluntary" initiative, certain antibiotics would not be used for so-called "production" purposes, which include enhancing growth or improving the effectiveness of animal feed, the agency said in a news release.
These antibiotics would still be available to prevent, control or treat illnesses in food-producing animals under the supervision of a veterinarian, the agency said.
"We know that the widespread use of antibiotics can contribute to antimicrobial resistance, which has public health consequences," Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said during a noon press briefing. "We know that the use of medically important drugs for production purposes in food-producing animals is a contributing factor."
The FDA is proposing a three-year voluntary plan to change how antibiotics are labeled and used in farm animals. The agency hopes these steps will help preserve the effectiveness of these drugs for people.
The FDA said it decided at this time to make the changes voluntary, not mandatory.
"With the willingness of drug companies and
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