Five medical and environmental groups filed a formal regulatory petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to withdraw approvals for seven classes of antibiotics for use as agricultural feed additives, citing those uses' failure to comply with FDA Guidance to protect human health.

The petition contends that continued use of these antibiotics as feed additives for chickens, hogs, or beef cattle fails to comply with the safety criteria in the FDA's guidance on agricultural antibiotics, Guidance No. 152. It designates the seven classes of antibiotics as "critically important" or "highly important" in human medicine.

The petitioners include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, Environmental Defense, Food Animal Concerns Trust and Union of Concerned Scientists. The petition is available at KeepAntibioticsWorking.com. It quotes several letters FDA recently sent to manufacturers of certain antibiotic feed-additives, noting that those products are "not considered appropriate" and that existing information "does not alleviate concern about the use of these products and their possible role in the emergence and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance."

Bipartisan legislation that would ensure the prompt removal of the drugs, The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, was reintroduced in both the House and Senate. The bill would phase out use of these drugs as feed additives within two years unless the FDA determines that continued use does not contribute to antibiotic resistance affecting humans. It does not restrict use of these antibiotics to treat sick animals.

Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Susan Collins (R-ME) joined lead sponsors Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), chair of the Small Business Committee, and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), ranking member of the Senate Health Committee, in sponsoring the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. The measure's lead sponsor in the House of Representatives is Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Commerce Health Subcommittee.

"Scientific studies have linked the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed to health risks in humans, including medical treatment failures that sometimes result in death," says Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, executive director of the American Public Health Association, the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world, representing more than 50,000 members from more than 50 occupations of public health. "We strongly support limiting the use of antibiotics in animal feeds to protect the public's health."

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