FDA Plays Chicken With Antibiotics: Newly Disclosed Documents Reveal Agency's "High Risk" Gamble With Human Health

Carmen Cordova | Switchboard | January 27, 2014

Here’s some unfortunate, but not so surprising news:  The Food and Drug Administration has allowed  30 potentially harmful antibiotic additives to remain approved for use in food animals (cows, pigs and chickens), even though the agency’s own scientists found them to pose a risk to human health or lack necessary data on safety. Documents that NRDC acquired from FDA through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show FDA’s own scientific review stating that the use of these drugs in livestock has not been shown to be safe for human health.  And FDA scientists classified 18 of the 30 drugs, in their current use, as presenting a “high risk” of adversely affecting public health.

NRDC compiled all of this data into a new report we released today called Playing Chicken with Antibiotics. As we outline in the report, FDA initiated an internal scientific review in 2001 on 30 penicillin and tetracycline feed and water additives for “subtherapeutic use” (non-treatment uses such as speeding up animal growth) in poultry and livestock production. Despite FDA scientists finding that at least 29 of the antibiotic additives are not proven to be safe, no action has been taken to withdraw approval. According to our research, twenty eight remain approved for use in livestock production and many remain on the market. Here’s a breakdown of the findings: