Liz Wagstrom, DVM, the National Pork Producers Council's chief veterinarian, talks with AgriTalk host Mike Adams about recent developments at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding antibiotic use in food-animal production.  

A flurry of activity related to antimicrobial use in animal agriculture took place in the first week of the New Year, starting with U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s announcement to limit extra-label use of certain cephalosporin products in cattle, hogs, chickens and turkeys. It’s getting some mixed, but generally positive reviews.

This proposal (click here to read more) is a revision of a stricter rule published in 2008 and then withdrawn.

Christine Hoang, DVM, American Veterinary Medical Association’s assistant director of the scientific activities division, says the 2008 rule was much too restrictive. The revised version is “consistent with AVMA policy.” We believe there should be a limited prohibition on extra-label drug use such that it protects public health and animal welfare,” she notes.

While the new proposal limits veterinarians somewhat, it keeps the necessary products accessible within the practitioner’s toolbox.

Essentially “FDA said cephalosporins are an important drug and we want to regulate some of those uses," says Liz Wagstrom, DVM, the National Pork Producers Council's chief veterinarian. "They (producers and veterinarians) are allowed to use these (cephalosporin) drugs to treat sick animals and for sick animals with diseases that may not be on the label.”

FDA’s cephalosporin proposal now enters the public comment process through Mar. 6, the planned implementation date is Apr. 5.

FDA officials also came out and indicated they would back away from efforts to ban penicillin and tetracycline use in animal agriculture. “FDA is saying ‘we’re going to be more targeted; look at how to protect both animal health and human health and strike a balance,” Wagstrom says. “I think they are setting a path of tightening the use of these products, but not establish outright bans.”

Someone who has been pushing for wide-reaching bans is Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). Regarding FDA’s action banning extra-label use of cephalosporin in animal agriculture, she says it is a “modest first step.” She contends that human antibiotic resistance is tied to overuse of antibiotics in food animals, and consequently FDA’s action this week is merely “the tip of the iceberg.” She says she is committed to pursuing more decisive and immediate action regarding antibiotic use in food-animal production.

Slaughter has been pushing the FDA to take action on several specific antibiotics since last summer and for several years has been pushing legislation to ban several antibiotics for use in livestock production.