High-Risk Antibiotics Stayed on Market After FDA Reviews

More than a dozen antibiotics used in animal feed remained on the market even after U.S. regulators determined there was a “high risk” of exposing humans to drug-resistant bacteria, an advocacy group said.

Eighteen of 30 feed additives reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration from 2001 to 2010 pose a good chance of exposing humans to untreatable bacterial infections, the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a report that cited internal FDA documents. After its review, the agency chose to broadly address the concerns and make non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in animal feed illegal, Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

The FDA last month said it would begin a voluntary program to phase out the practice of farmers using antibiotics to fatten cattle, hogs and chickens for human consumption. The medicines, often the last line of defense against life-threatening germs, are starting to lose power because of overexposure.

The voluntary policy “recognizes the problem, but lacks meaningful requirements and seems unlikely to curb uses of the antibiotics reviewed here or any of the other problematic uses,” the New York-based environmental advocacy group said in its report released yesterday.

Of the 30 additives the FDA reviewed, 26 don’t satisfy safety standards set by the agency in 1973, said the NRDC, which works to keep contaminants out of food.

The FDA hasn’t revoked the approvals for any of the reviewed antibiotic feed additives, though two were withdrawn by the drug manufactures, NRDC said. At least nine of the additives are being marketed today, the group said.

“The FDA is confident that its current strategy to protect the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials, including penicillins and tetracyclines, is the most efficient and effective way to change the use of these products in animal agriculture,” DeLancey said.

The FDA has the power to discipline companies when they don’t comply with agency requests.

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