Despite findings that antibiotic exposure through the consumption of animals could make humans resistant to the drugs, the Food and Drug Administration has continued to allow antibiotics to be used in livestock feed, the Washington Post reports.
Citing a report obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Post says that between 2001 and 2010, FDA officials rated 18 of 30 animal-feed additives as “high-risk.”
Other drugs examined by the agency did not have sufficient data to determine whether they were safe, the report says.
Additionally, at least 26 of the feed additives that FDA researchers reviewed, including some that have been in use since the 1950s, failed to meet standards set by the agency in 1973 that required companies to submit scientific studies proving their safety, the report says.
The information comes at a time when public health experts are becoming increasingly worried about antibiotic-resistant infections, which sicken millions of Americans each year and kill an estimated 23,000.
Further, there are mounting concerns that America’s obesity epidemic may be linked to antibiotics, which have been used to promote weight gain in food animals since the 1950s.
Thirty-six percent of all American adults are characterized as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ethnic minorities have the highest rates of obesity. Half of African Americans are considered obese while only 34 percent of Whites Americans are considered obese.
Obesity exists in the African-American community for a complex range of reasons, including lack of access to high-quality foods that are organic or hormone-free as well safe outdoor spaces to workout.
Now, researchers are now focusing an eye toward antibiotics in food, though.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been working to help tackle childhood obesity through her “Let’s Move!” campaign, which encourages healthful eating and working out from a young age.
Still, advocates are calling on the FDA to tighten enforcement on the use of antibiotics in the world of agriculture. Carmen Cordova, a microbiologist with the NRDC and lead author of the analysis, “called the FDA’s failure to act on its own findings “a breach of their responsibility and the public trust.”
In a statement released by the FDA Monday, the Post says, the review highlighted in the NRDC report was “part of the agency’s overall effort to assess available, current information regarding antimicrobial resistance concerns associated with the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals.”
Rather than focus on specific drugs, the FDA said, it decided to push for a broader strategy of trying to phase out non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics over time.
An estimated 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States annually are used in agriculture rather than in human medicine, the report says. Consumer and environmental groups have urged lawmakers and regulators to do more to curtail the amount of antibiotics injected and fed to animals, specifically those classes of drugs also used to treat humans.
Last fall, the CDC released an alarming report discussing the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infections. Officials underscored the widespread use of antibiotics in animals as a looming concern about the spread of infections, although most occur in hospitals and nursing homes.
“Resistant bacteria can contaminate the foods that come from those animals, and people who consume these foods can develop antibiotic-resistant infections,” the CDC report stated. “The use of antibiotics for promoting growth is not necessary, and the practice should be phased out.”