For the second weekend in a row, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on food safety issues. On Sunday, the paper published an editorial titled “Get Antibiotics Off the Farm,” saying the paper hopes the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a recent ruling that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must, after decades of delay, hold withdrawal hearings on certain antibiotics used in agriculture. Last week, the paper called out the Obama administration for holding up key Food Safety Modernization Act rules at the Office of Management and Budget. As the Times explained this week, a federal magistrate judge in New York ruled that the FDA should “quit dillydallying on its three-decade effort to curb indiscriminate use of antibiotics in farm animals to spur their growth.” “He set a timetable for the agency to follow in withdrawing two important drugs — penicillin and two forms of tetracycline — from widespread use in animals,” the editorial continued. “The trouble is, that timetable will give the F.D.A. five more years to complete the process.” The FDA argues that it would be too expensive and time consuming to hold withdrawal hearings, instead the agency has recently adopted a formal voluntary approach to promote the judicious use of agricultural antibiotics. The New York judge told FDA that the voluntary approach shouldn’t keep the agency from also going forward with the withdrawal proceedings. “If the F.D.A. appeals that decision, we hope the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold it and find some way to shorten the time period for the F.D.A. to reach final conclusions.”

  • doc raymond

    “two forms of tetracycline” that are not even used in human medicine. Someone needs to keep pointing this out, instead of letting the NYT fan the flames.

  • The two most common tetracyclines given to animals are oxytetracycline and chlortetracycline. Oxytetracycline has been available in the U.S. as a drug for humans since 1950. This drug has the following labeled uses in humans:
    Acute Gonococcal Cervicitis
    Acute Gonococcal Endometritis
    Acute Gonococcal Epidididymo-Orchitis
    Acute Gonococcal Urethritis
    Acute Otitis Media Infection
    Genitourinary Chlamydia Trachomatis Infection
    Gonococcal Pharyngitis
    Q Fever
    Rectal Chlamydia Trachomatis Infection
    Rectal Gonorrhea
    Relapsing Fever
    Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
    Typhus Infections
    Urinary Tract Infections
    This same drug may also be used for the following unlabeled uses:
    Biliary Tract Infection
    Chalmydial Infections
    Mycoplasma Pneumonia
    Ocular Rosacea
    Tetracyclines all have the same mode of action. They differ in their pharmacodynamics. Tetracyclines are very useful drugs for a number of reasons, including that they are relatively inexpensive, were once quite effective for a large variety of diseases and because they also have the effect of suppressing the inflammatory response, which assists in treating infectious disease. OF COURSE their current usefulness for humans is severely limited by the rise of antibiotic resistance. For you to argue that the agricultural use of these antibiotics should continue to be allowed because the usage of these two variants has fallen off not only ignores the mechanism of how antibiotic resistance arises but is also circular at best and misleading at worst. Each one of the applications listed above had once to have been documented by clinical trial(s) for safety and efficacy. With medical costs rising all the time (and no good healthcare solution either on the books or on the horizon), should this massive amount of work (and the money that supported it all) now just be thrown out in order that livestock may be produced more efficiently? From the livestock producer’s point of view, when does overwhelming scientific opinion become a legal liability? Is there a smarter path to feed efficiency that does not involve becoming an engine of antibiotic-resistant-pathogen generation? If so, find it before your competitor does.