July 28, 2014

Senators Gillibrand, Warren & Feinstein Question FDA About Efforts To Curb Antibiotic Overuse In Food Animals

Washington, DC – United States Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a letter today to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg requesting information about the FDA's efforts to curb the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production.

"The use of antibiotics in food-producing animals must be reduced as part of the effort to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics," the senators wrote. "Research has shown that antibiotic resistant bacteria are most likely to develop when antibiotics are used continuously at low doses - the type of regimen used frequently in food animal production."

In their letter, the senators noted steps the FDA has taken to begin addressing this issue, including issuing guidance on inappropriate antibiotic use for growth promotion, calling for pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily remove these uses from product labels, and requiring more veterinary oversight of antibiotic use in food animals. The senators explained, "While these new policies are important first steps, we remain concerned that they may not be sufficient to effectively curtail the routine use of dangerously low doses of antibiotics for the duration of an animal's life. . . . The benefits of this change will be negligible . . . if the same animals can continue receiving the same antibiotics at the same doses."

The Antimicrobial Data Collection Act, introduced by Senator Gillibrand, would direct the FDA to collect and release more detailed information about how antibiotics are used in animals. Senator Warren previously questioned Commissioner Hamburg about these policies during the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on March 13, 2014. Senator Feinstein has led the effort to require a significant reduction in the use of antibiotic use in animals with her bill, the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act. 

Today, the senators are requesting information from the FDA on its plans to evaluate whether these its new policies are successful, and about additional steps the agency will take if its current policies prove to be insufficient at curbing the overuse of antibiotics in food animals.

Read the full text of the letter here.