Let's start where we can all agree: The overuse of medically important antibiotics in food animals should stop. We can focus on the past and point fingers, or we can address it now.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initiated an approach that we believe will reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance and protect the public health.
We'll do this by working with the animal drug industry, ranchers and farmers, and veterinarians. Our strategy will help ensure the health of America's families as well as the health of the animals on farms and ranches across the country. These ideas are not mutually exclusive and can be achieved by eliminating production uses of certain medically important drugs in livestock, while preserving therapeutic purposes upon the advice of a veterinarian.
Some critics argue that FDA's strategy is too soft and call for regulatory action. In reality, initiating an enforcement approach in this instance would mean going drug by drug and could take many years.
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Our strategy is immediate and industrywide: All companies are being asked to remove production uses from their drugs. FDA is proposing a time frame for these changes, and we're confident it can be met. And we have been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to strike the right balance and help ensure our success.
To those who say we are simply "trusting" the industry, we would reply, "Trust but verify." It will be clear how industry responds, and we have not yielded any of our enforcement options.
It is important to recognize that the economic realities of the marketplace are already bringing change. More and more companies — such as McDonald's and KFC— require their suppliers to verify that they don't use antibiotics for production purposes, because that's what consumers want. We understand that phasing out these production uses of antibiotics as quickly as possible is a public health priority.
FDA's actions provide an orderly, timely path forward that will reduce antibiotic resistance to protect both human and animal health. We can focus on the past, or we can move ahead. We chose to move ahead.
Michael R. Taylor is deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
FDA: 'Trust but verify' – USATODAY.com