Washington D.C. — A new report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows that sales of antibiotics for use in food animals declined 14% in 2016, the first decrease in sales since the agency first began collecting this data in 2009. The drop may reflect both consumer demand for meat and poultry raised without antibiotics, and anticipation of FDA rules curtailing the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, which went into effect on January 1, 2017.
“The decrease is important for consumers because overuse of antibiotics in agriculture gives rise to antibiotic resistant infections in humans,” said the Director of CFA’s Food Policy Institute, Thomas Gremillion. “Reducing antibiotic use will make meat and poultry safer, and benefit public health in general.”
In the United States, livestock consume an estimated 70% of medically important antibiotics. Large livestock operations often feed animals antibiotics on a routine basis to compensate for crowded, unsanitary conditions. Antibiotic-resistant infections kill an estimated 23,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In addition to more severe foodborne illnesses like salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis, genetic and epidemiological research has tied animal drug use to antibiotic resistant urinary tract infections, and other ailments not normally associated with food,” said Gremillion. “News of this type of decrease in animal antibiotic use is welcome, but long overdue.”
The FDA report for the first time breaks down sales data by animal species Sales of medically important antibiotics for cattle (43%) and swine (37%) were much higher than for chicken (6%) and turkey (9%). “Key players in the chicken industry, like Tyson and Perdue, have accomplished a dramatic transition away from antibiotic use, in large part due to pressure from institutional food purchasers like municipalities, school districts, and hospitals,” said Gremillion. “This report shows that beef, pork, and turkey farmers need to catch up.”
The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.