A nonprofit group that has been using the courts to pressure the Food and Drug Administration into exerting more control over farm antibiotic overuse has done a deep review of FDA documents prised loose through Freedom of Information Act requests — and concludes that by allowing the drugs to remain on the market as formulated, the agency isn’t meeting its own internal safety standards.
Instead of only making that assertion, the Natural Resources Defense Council took the unusual step of showing its evidence in detail. NRDC published its analysis, Playing Chicken with Antibiotics, alongside a selection of the raw documents it received from the FDA. You’ll have to be a document-obsessive to take it on: The file (cached in a Dropbox and requiring download to view) is 306 mb and 971 pages. But even without considering its content, the file’s heft makes clear how much discussion there has been at the FDA over this issue, and suggests how much evidence has been accumulating over the problem of antibiotic resistance emerging from livestock production. Also telling: The FDA has been attempting to put some controls on livestock production since 1977; these documents cover only reviews of antibiotic feed additives that were conducted between 2001 and 2010.
NRDC’s conclusion, in its report:
FDA’s scientific reviewers’ findings show that none of these products would likely be approvable as new additives for nontherapeutic livestock use if submitted today, under current FDA guidelines. Eighteen of the 30 reviewed feed additives were deemed to pose a “high risk” of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food supply, based on the information available. The remainder lacked adequate data for the reviewers to make any determination and their safety remains unproven. In addition, FDA concluded in their review that at least 26 of the reviewed feed additives do not satisfy even the safety standards set by FDA in 1973.