U.S. livestock antibiotic move under scrutiny in Canada

Amove by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clamp down on the use of human antibiotics in veterinary drugs is being closely watched in Canada, but no immediate action is being planned.

The final shape of the FDA’s plan has yet to be determined but it’s aimed at eliminating so-called non-therapeutic antibiotic use within three years. Instead of routinely including antibiotics in feed to prevent disease, FDA wants any use to be done when really needed under “veterinary oversight or consultation” and in a manner that minimizes the use of drugs.

The move is in response to concerns that overuse of common antibiotics in livestock feed is increasing bacterial resistance to them leaving them less effective in treating disease in humans. FDA is working its way through a consultative process that will end with specific rules for farmers and veterinarians.

A Health Canada spokeswoman says her department “has taken a variety of measures to promote the judicious use of antimicrobial drugs in animals and to limit the development of antimicrobial resistance. These measures include the addition of warning statements specifying the conditions for antimicrobial use on the drug product labels.”

The department is currently reassessing those antimicrobial drug products that make growth promotion claims. The spokesman notes “extra-label drug use and prescribing medication is a practice of veterinary medicine and is regulated by the provinces.”

The Center for Food Safety in Washington called the FDA move long overdue, saying 80 per cent of all antibiotics produced in the U.S. are given to animals, not humans, and this has resulted in “a significant increase in antibiotic-resistant superbugs.”

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