Sunday, July 25, 2010


Using antibiotics for purposes other than treating the animals affected by diseases due to infection is fraught with far reaching adverse implications. It is not to be forgotten that antibiotics were discovered, starting with Penicillin, to treat human beings, that too as a last resort after exhausting other means to cure them. It is also known that many pathogens have the capability to build resistance to drugs if exposed regularly or continuously. Therefore the tendency on the part of many processors in the meat sector to use antibiotics for weight gain or any other purpose deserves to be condemned forthright. The current move to discourage such dangerous practices must be pursued relentlessly through persuasion or if necessary through mandatory steps.

"Giving animals antibiotics in order to increase food production is a threat to public health and should be stopped, the FDA said today. The federal agency says it has the power to ban the practice, but it's starting by issuing "draft guidance" in hopes the food industry will make voluntary changes. After a 60-day public comment period, the guidance will become FDA policy. The guidance is based on two principles: Antibiotics should be given to food animals only to protect their health. All animal use of antibiotics should be overseen by veterinarians.

"We are seeing the emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens," FDA Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, MD, said at a news conference. "FDA believes overall weight of evidence supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production purposes is not appropriate." Sharfstein said it's a public health issue when antibiotics important for human health are given to animals on a massive scale. Such use encourages the growth of drug-resistant bacteria that can cause hard-to-treat human disease. Like humans, animals sometimes need antibiotics to fight or prevent specific infections. The FDA says it has no problem with this. But producers regularly give antibiotics to food animals because it makes them gain weight faster or makes them gain more weight from the food they eat. This is the practice the FDA wants to end. Sharfstein hopes that by offering the carrot of voluntary guidelines, industry will avoid the stick of new regulations".

How far the FDA will go to prevent such unhealthy practices by the industry remains to be seen because of the disappointing experience of the past vis a vis FDA's proactive consumer protection record, invariably buckling under the lobbying and muscle power of the large industry conglomerates. While meat eating habit of human beings as a whole and the inhuman attitude of the meat industry towards the animals slaughtered by them are increasingly coming under criticism, the industry can do without another controversy regarding indiscriminate use of antibiotics.


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