The Food and Drug Administration's new guidelines on antibiotics on farms are now open for public comment. The new guidelines announced this week are the first major action by the agency to tamp down on the widespread use of antibiotics on livestock farms.
According to FDA statistics, around 80 percent all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on farms. They're used to treat sickness, but also to prevent it, and to fatten up animals. Health officials say the widespread use has helped spur the rise of drug-resistant bugs, which kill more than 20,000 people each year.
The new voluntary guidelines ask drug companies to remove from the drug's label any claims about stimulating growth. If drug companies comply, it would effectively be illegal for farmers to use antibiotics to fatten up animals.
Pork producer Craig Rowles joins Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti to share his thoughts on the new guidelines.
Interview Highlights: Craig Rowles
On the use of antibiotics for farm animals
"It's important to understand that antibiotics are broadly categorized for use in four different areas. For the treatment and prevention and control of disease, and for the purposes of nutritional efficiency or growth promotion. And in the past when these antibiotics were first produced, the FDA regulations were that if the producer could understand and read the directions, they had the opportunity to use that product without necessarily a strict veterinary oversight. On the other hand, the pork producers groups over the years have strongly encouraged producers to utilize veterinarians in their decision making process for how antibiotics should be used. So the changes that are coming will simply more formalize that relationship that probably exists anyway."
On the downside of requiring veterinary oversight
"The concern would be, from my perspective, the producer that lives in an area that is underserved by veterinary medicine, that there could be some burden associated with getting somebody out there to have that relationship. So in terms of adapting to these rule changes, we'll make that adaption. We will follow the rules."
On using antibiotics as a preventative measure
"We as veterinarians and producers, we know when we need to target those tools. And oftentimes in a group of animals if you wait until you see the disease already start to occur, you're sometimes too late to give an appropriate therapy. And so prevention is an important part of that therapeutic treatment when it's appropriate."
- Craig Rowles, pork producer with 8,000 sows in Carroll, Iowa. He's also a veterinarian.
This segment aired on December 13, 2013.