by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Antibiotics

May 10 2017

Will we ever stop misusing animal antibiotics?

Politico ProAg reports that the International Poultry Council will soon issue a statement advising the poultry industry to:

  • Stop using antibiotics critical to human medicine to promote livestock growth and prevent disease,
  • Only use these drugs when prescribed by a veterinarian for treatment of disease,
  • Be transparent about the amount of antibiotics it uses and why.

The poultry industry routinely uses antibiotics in feed and water despite major efforts to stop this practice.

Government agencies concerned about increasing resistance to animal antibiotics have long wanted their use stopped or managed appropriately.

Trying to stop misuse of animal antibiotics has a long history.

The animal agriculture industry has fought all attempts to curtain antibiotic use.

The word has gotten through to the poultry industry.  Let’s hope this works.

Jan 2 2017

The FDA’s report on antibiotic use in farm animals: still increasing

The FDA recently published its Annual Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed in 2015 for Use in Food-Producing Animals.

The report finds bad news and good news.

The bad news :

The report shows that sales and distribution of all antimicrobials increased 1 percent from 2014 through 2015, tying for the lowest annual increase since 2009. The percentage of those antimicrobials that are considered medically important in human medicine increased by 2 percent from 2014 through 2015.

The good news: This ties for the lowest annual increase since 2009.

But here’s a summary of antibiotic use in animal agriculture:—9.7 million kilograms of medically important drugs (that’s about 20 million pounds) and another 5.9 million kilograms of antibiotics that are not important medically. (about 13 million pounds).

The report comes with a Q and A.  Here is an example:

Does a summary report exist for antimicrobial sales and distribution for human drugs?  Yes. Please see: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm261160.htm.

Then go to: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM319435.pdf

3.28 million kilograms of selected systemic antibacterial drugs were sold during year 2010 and around 3.29 million kilograms were sold during year 2011. Active ingredient amoxicillin had the highest proportion of total kilograms sold of all selected systemic antibacterial drug products throughout the time period examined.

OK, but the objective needs to be to decrease use of antimicrobials in animal agriculture and use them only for treatment of illnesses, not prevention.

 

Aug 3 2016

McDonald’s joins the food movement???

McDonald’s ran a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times:*

“At McDonald’s we’re on a journey: What’s important to you is important to us.”

The ad says McDonald’s is taking these actions [with my comments]:

  • Removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets and other items [Fine, but no big deal in my book.]
  • Removed high fructose corn syrup from hamburger buns [And replaced it with what?  Sugar?  This matters? I’m guessing the price of HFCS must be close enough to the price of sugar to make this possible.]**
  • Committed to only source chickens that have not been treated with antibiotics [OK.  Now we’re talking important.  For this alone,  McDonald’s deserves high praise.  My only question: by when?]*** 

The ad also summarizes the company’s additional actions, done and promised:

  • Burgers are 100% beef
  • Eggs are freshly cracked
  • Salads feature baby spinach, kale, Tuscan red leaf lettuce, and carrots
  • Buttermilk chicken uses real buttermilk
  • Milk is sourced from cows not treated with rbST
  • 2 billion sides of fruit were served (including 59 million clementines)
  • Espresso beans are Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • Eggs will be cage-free by 2025

Amazing, no?

It’s worth a field trip to see how all this works in practice.  I’m on it.

Additions, corrections, and updates

*Jill Cornish writes that the ad also appeared in the Washington Post.

**I get a Bingo for this one.  Martijn Katan writes: “The price of beet sugar fell below that of HCFS in April 2015. By June 2016, 1 lb of HFCS-55 cost $0.412 as opposed to $0.297 for beet sugar.”  He even sends a reference: www.cornnaturally.com/Economics-of-HFCS/price-calculator.aspx

***Andy Smith points out that “In 2015, McDonald’s announced that it would stop buying chicken raised with non-therapeutic, medically-important antibiotics by 2017– but a few weeks ago announced that it had already done so.”  He too provides a reference: See QSR. “McDonald’s Eliminates Antibiotics From Its Chicken,” QSR Magazine, August 2, 2016. Retrieved at https://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/eliminates-antibiotics-its-chicken.

Thank you readers!  Much appreciated.

Apr 28 2015

Is the food movement winning?

Brian Lehrer asked me a question this morning that is well worth pondering.

The gist: Are the recent actions taken by food companies an indication that consumers are having an effect at the expense of science—and at the expense of focusing on more important food issues such as too much sugar, obesity, and diabetes?

He cited these recent events:

  • Tyson’s says it will phase out human antibiotics in broiler production.
  • McDonald’s says it will source chicken that has not been treated with antibiotics.
  • PepsiCo says it is taking aspartame out of its diet sodas (it’s the #1 reason given for not drinking diet cola).
  • Chipotle says it will source GMO-free ingredients.
  • Nestlé says it is removing artificial colors from its chocolate candy.
  • Kraft says it is taking the yellow dyes out of its Mac n’ Cheese.

To all of them, I say it’s about time.

None of these is necessary in the food supply.

There are plenty of scientific questions about all of them, although some—antibiotics, for example—are more troubling than others.

If voting with your fork can achieve these results, they pave the way for taking on the much more difficult issues.

These are big steps forward.  They matter.

They should inspire other companies to do the same.

Dec 27 2013

More on “profligate” use of antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals

The New England Journal of Medicine has an editorial on why we need to stop using antibiotics to promote the growth of farm animals and make sure they are only used for therapeutic purposes.

Otherwise, bacteria will become resistant to them and the antibiotics won’t work in us.

This figure from the article illustrates the problem:

As writers in the Journal wrote a year ago, we know what to do about the problem: Ban antibiotic use for everything other than disease treatment.

The FDA is taking baby steps in this direction.  How about a new year’s resolution to speed up the process?

Dec 17 2013

The FDA issues guidance on animal antibiotics–voluntary, alas, but still a major big deal

I was in Washington DC last week when the FDA announced  that it was taking significant steps to address antibiotic resistance, a problem caused by overuse in raising animals for food.

The FDA called on makers of animal antibiotics to:

  • Voluntarily stop labeling medical important antibiotics as usable for promoting animal growth or feed efficiency (in essence, banning antibiotics from these uses).
  • Voluntarily notify the FDA of their intent to sign on to these strategies within the next three months.
  • Voluntarily put the new guidance into effect within 3 years.
  • Agree to a proposed rule to require a veterinarian’s prescription to use antibiotics that are presently sold over the counter (the proposal is open for public comment for 90 days at www.regulations.gov.   Docket FDA-2010-N-0155).

Voluntary is, of course, a red flag and the Washington Post quoted critics saying that the new guidance falls far short of what really is needed—a flat-out ban on use of antibiotics as growth promoters.

  • Consumers Union is concerned about the long delay caused by the 3-year window.
  • CSPI is worried about all the loopholes.
  • NRDC thinks the FDA is pretending to do more than it’s really doing and “kicks the can significantly down the road.”
  • Mother Jones points out that the meat industry can still “claim it’s using antibiotics ‘preventively,’ continuing to reap the benefits of growth promotion and continue to generate resistant bacteria.”
  • Civil Eats reminds us that the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (on which I served) recommended a ban on nontherapeutic use of all antibiotics.

Yes, the loopholes are real, but I view the FDA’s guidance as a major big deal.  The agency is explicitly taking on the antibiotic problem.  It is sending a clear signal to industrial farm animal  producers that sooner or later they will have to:

  • Stop using antibiotics as growth promoters.
  • Stop using antibiotics indiscriminately, even for disease treatment.

I think the FDA is dead serious about the antibiotic problem.  If the FDA seems to be doing this in some convoluted fashion, I’m guessing it’s because it has to.  The FDA must not have been able to find any other politically viable way to get at the antibiotics problem.

I see this as a first step on the road to banning antibiotics for any use in animals other than the occasional treatment of specific illnesses.

As the New York Times puts it,

This is the agency’s first serious attempt in decades to curb what experts have long regarded as the systematic overuse of antibiotics in healthy farm animals, with the drugs typically added directly into their feed and water. The waning effectiveness of antibiotics — wonder drugs of the 20th century — has become a looming threat to public health. At least two million Americans fall sick every year and about 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Still not convinced antibiotics are worth banning for promoting growth?

The best explanation is the Washington Post’s handy guide to the antibiotic-perplexed.  Here, for example, is its timeline of development of microbial resistance to antibiotics.  The bottom line: the more widespread the use of antibiotics, the greater the onset and prevalence of resistance.  And it takes practically no time for bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotic drugs.

nchembio.2007.24-F1

Resources from FDA

Sep 26 2013

CDC’s thoroughly convincing report on the threat of antibiotic resistance

The CDC has produced a major study on antibiotic resistance and how it works. 

The report provides convincing evidence that use of antibiotics in farm animals must be restricted to therapeutic purposes—and not used to promote growth.

Apr 24 2013

FDA vs EWG: Report on antibiotic-resistant superbugs in meat oversimplified, misleading?

Earlier this month, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued a report on antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat: Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets.

Its message:

Consumers have a right to know that federal scientists are finding antibiotic-resistant bacteria on retail meat in high percentages.

The report must have struck a nerve.  The FDA has now posted a rebuttal on its website, along with the agency’s interpretation of data in the 2011 Retail Meat Annual Report of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).

The EWG, says FDA, “oversimplifies the NARMS data and provides misleading conclusions.”

The FDA particularly objects to EWG’s use of the term “superbugs.”

We believe that it is inaccurate and alarmist to define bacteria resistant to one, or even a few, antimicrobials as “superbugs” if these same bacteria are still treatable by other commonly used antibiotics.

The FDA says the NARMS data show:

  • No fluoroquinolone resistance in Salmonella from any source (the drug of choice for treating adults with Salmonella).
  • Resistance to trimethoprim-sulfonamide is also low (0% to 3.7%).
  • Fluoroquinolone resistance in Campylobacter has remained essentially unchanged since it was banned for use in poultry in 2005.
  • Macrolide antibiotic resistance in retail chicken isolates remains low (this is the drug of choice for treating Campylobacter)
  • Multidrug resistance is rare in Campylobacter except that gentamicin resistance increased from 0.7% in 2007 to 18.1% in 2011.
  • Resistance to third-generation cephalosporins, which are used to treat salmonellosis, increased in Salmonella from chicken (10 to 33.5%) and turkey (8.1 to 22.4%) from 2002 to 2011.  FDA has already taken action by prohibiting certain extra-label uses of cephalosporins in cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys.

The EWG’s response to the FDA’s rebuttal:

This is the best the agency can do?

It has been failing to protect the public health on this issue for 40 years, only recently issuing a voluntary guidance to scale back on the worst antibiotic abuses.

What are we to make of this dispute?

Beyond questions about how best to frame antibiotic resistance, some facts are clear.

  • Most antibiotics in the United States are used as growth promoters for raising meat animals, not as treatment for infections in animals or people.
  • Frequent use of antibiotics selects for and promotes the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria are difficult to treat, and sometimes very difficult to treat.

It would be better for public health to end the use of antibiotics as growth promoters.

The FDA’s current stance on use of animal antibiotics appears to be more about protecting the meat industry than about protecting public health.

While waiting for the politics to get better (and this might be a long wait), the EWG has some tips for avoiding antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat.  I can’t think of a single good reason not to follow these recommendations, except that they place the burden of avoiding antibiotic-resistant bacteria on you rather than on the meat industry.

That’s why EWG’s advice to Be Vocal makes especially good sense:

Be vocal: 

  • When you’re eating out: ask if the meat was raised without unnecessary antibiotics. 
  • „At the doctor’s office: don’t press for unnecessary antibiotics. 
  • With your friends: share this tip sheet or a wallet guide with them. 
  • „Make your voice heard: Go to ewg.org/antibioticsaction to find out how you can help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics [Try www.ewg.org–the link given here doesn’t seem to work].
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