NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 15, 2014

Use and abuse

Who says the FDA doesn’t take action when needed? It might take decades, I’ll admit, to correct health problems, but it does happen.

For example, take March 26: The FDA finally got 25 of 26 antibiotic marketers to agree to modify their labels to curb overuse in animal feed. You say, “Pish, posh and all that goes with it because it doesn’t concern me.” Not so, for if you, your parents, even your grandparents were deprived of Terramycin, Aureomycin, Streptomycin or Penicillin for a contracted disease, then the government action would be more important.

The key phrase that the 25 companies agreed to remove stated, “This product may not be used for growth promotion.”

It all started back in the mid 1940s when research showed that the “Age of Antibiotics” had more going for it than just saving lives; they had growth-enhancing activity. By 1949, Pfizer, American Cyanamid and several other antibiotic companies were selling their products as a feed supplement to milling companies that supplied farmers with animal feed for cattle, chickens and pigs, which all benefited health-wise.

It took a number of years before the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the FDA were put on notice about carry-over into humans. The buildup of antibiotics in animals was preventing conventional treatment from being successful; the bacteria were becoming resistant. The battle continues to this day to find effective antibiotics. What once cost a million dollars to develop was now running into hundreds of millions of dollars.

A report last fall from the CDC stated, “Much of the antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.” The move by the FDA in December 2013 to endorse a plan to curtail the use in animals was not endorsed by the agricultural industry. The CDC added fuel to the fire by quantifying the toll antibiotic-resistant bacteria was taking by estimating that at least 2 million Americans fell ill and at least 23,000 die from it each year.

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