Citing a lack of data to support limiting antibiotic use in livestock, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it is concerned with proposals that would restrict antibiotic use based on unproven theory.

According to AFBF, FDA intends to curb antibiotic use in livestock without fully understanding the impact on public health. There have been no peer-reviewed scientific studies to support the theory that judicious use of antibiotics in livestock increases antibiotic resistance in humans. In addition, there is no data to indicate that limiting antibiotic use in livestock decreases human health problems with antibiotic resistance.

“The FDA is taking action to help preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans, but has not demonstrated whether the actions will have any effect on antibiotic resistance,” according to an AFBF press release.

In its draft proposal ‘Guidance 213’ published in April, FDA asked drug manufacturers to voluntarily give up certain antibiotic label claims within three years. Under the new voluntary initiative, antibiotics would not be used for purposes such as enhancing growth or improving feed efficiency, according to FDA. In addition, FDA wants to increase veterinary oversight of therapeutic uses of antibiotics.

“It is critical that we take action to protect public health,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret  Hamburg. FDA has said that these antibiotics would still be available to prevent, control or treat illnesses in food-producing animals under the supervision of a veterinarian.

“AFBF agrees that human antibiotic resistance is a serious and growing healthcare problem,” said Bob Stallman, AFBF president.. Developing strategies for reducing antimicrobial resistance is critically important for protecting both public and animal health,” “However, we are extremely concerned with FDA actions, which seem to indicate the agency is basing complex animal health policies on theory, rather than sound scientific studies.”

Products available to livestock producers today have gone through rigorous and continuous scientific testing, according to AFBF. “Antibiotics in livestock are currently used carefully in a highly-regulated process,” Stallman said. “FDA has and continues to exercise the authority to review every animal health product, including antibiotics, prior to approval, and at periodic intervals after the product is on the market.”

AFBF believes it is imperative that any new policies relative to antibiotics be grounded in data and reflective of the realities of the diversity of modern animal agriculture production, Stallman added. “The limitation or elimination of animal antibiotic use in the livestock industry will have negative economic and animal health consequences. Any changes in availability of these products must be undertaken carefully to reduce unnecessary negative impacts to animals, producers and veterinarians.”