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FDA starts process to cut back antibiotic overuse in livestock

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today is implementing plans to help phase out the use of antibiotics, medically important to fighting disease in humans, for enhancing growth or improving feed efficiency in food-producing animals. In final guidance, FDA outlines a voluntary, phased-in approach to remove their routine use for industrial production practices. This announcement comes on the heels of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released this year that pointed out, "Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals are unnecessary."


The Organic Trade Association (OTA) encourages FDA's long-term efforts but reminds the public a clear choice to avoid antibiotics in animal agriculture exists now.

"Because the use of antibiotics in animal rearing is strictly prohibited in organic production, organic is the gold standard for consumers, TODAY, concerned about their overuse and wishing to avoid exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria linked to such use," said Laura Batcha, OTA's Executive Vice President. She added, "Instead, organic producers provide living conditions and health care practices that help prevent illness and promote health of the animals—so just look for the USDA Organic seal when shopping."

Statistics released by FDA show that animal production uses over 29 million pounds of antibiotics annually. "If everyone chose just one organic product out of every 10 they purchased, we could eliminate over 2.5 million pounds of unnecessary antibiotic use each year. That could go a long way in reducing the development of antibiotic resistance," according to Jessica Shade, Ph.D., Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. [See infographic]

In addition to prohibiting the use of antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones in organic livestock production, U.S. national organic standards require organic livestock to be fed 100 percent organic feed and given access to pasture and the outdoors. The standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, toxic and persistent pesticides and herbicides, synthetic fertilizer and sewage sludge on fields. Organic operations are federally regulated, with third-party certification by a U.S. Department of Agriculture-accredited certifier.

"By choosing meat and dairy products bearing the organic label, consumers can avoid contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria," said Shade. Noting that studies have found fewer antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria on organic foods such as organic chickens and pork, she added, "If you're worried about dietary exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, choosing organic is an easy and wise choice."

FDA's press release about its latest actions on antibiotic use in livestock also links to information sheets for consumers, frequently asked questions, and final guidance for industry.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.

The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, and to communicate the findings to the public. As an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association,  The Center envisions improved health for the Earth and its inhabitants through the conversion of agriculture to organic methods.

SOURCE Organic Trade Association
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