Our Opinion: Human health must take precedence over animal growth

The use of antibiotics in livestock may epitomize too much of a good thing.

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week asked the livestock industry to voluntary comply with phasing out the use of antibiotics for animals.

The request is based on an alarming rise in antibiotic-resistant diseases among humans.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in September that more that 23,000 people are dying each year from drug-resistant infections.

Repeated exposure to antibiotics results in germs morphing into mutant strains that create drug-resistant infections.

The repeated exposure has been traced to consumption of meat from livestock routinely treated with antibiotics. Many cattle, hog and poultry producers use antibiotics to keep their livestock healthy and promote more rapid growth.

The FDA’s action has received broad support.

Some pharmaceutical companies – including Zoetis and Elanco, two leading makers of animal antibiotics – have indicated they will comply.

Some restaurants, including McDonald’s and Chipolte, favor meat without antibiotics, which may spur greater availability among producers and suppliers.

And, although the livestock industry benefits from using antibiotics, some animal groups, including the National Pork Producers Council, back the FDA request.

Criticism has come not from detractors who fear the action will drive up consumer costs, but primarily from supporters who favor regulations instead of voluntary compliance.

FDA officials respond by pointing out changes in the complicated regulatory process could take years.

The big picture here is important. Human health takes precedence over profitability.

If the FDA’s request doesn’t make that clear, follow with a mandate.

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