There might be more animal drugs to worry about than just antibiotics. That’s according to a report released by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) this past week. “America’s Secret Animal Drug Problem” is an overview of safety information currently available for commonly used animal drugs. In addition to the antibiotics, CFS also addressed beta-agonists, steroid hormones, antioxidants, antibiotics arsenicals, and cocciodiostats. “[T]he animal agriculture industry uses over 450 animal drugs, drug combinations, and other feed additives to promote growth of the animals and to suppress the negative effects that heavily-concentrated confinement has on farm animals,” report states. Cattle feedingThe report described the uses of each type of drug and the possible threats they pose to animal, human or environmental health. For many of these drugs, a big issue is the lack of information regarding their effects. A significant portion of the report was dedicated to antibiotics, reiterating concerns that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidance to industry for removing growth promotion claims from animal antibiotics labels doesn’t address the other non-therapeutic use of disease prevention. The CFS report also raises the idea that a ban on non-therapeutic uses could result in an increase of other non-antimicrobial drugs used for growth promotion. Two beta-agonist drugs – ractopamine and zilpaterol – are widely used for last-minute weight gain in animals before slaughter. CFS states that these drugs lack “adequate rigorous assessment,” despite the fact that ractopamine increases the number of “downer” or lame animals and that residues have been detected on meat products. There are six hormones approved for use in U.S. cattle production, and concerns have been raised that exposure to certain hormones can affect the human reproductive system, particularly in fetuses and adolescent girls. FDA says that any hormone residues in meat are below natural hormone levels, but CFS is skeptical of this claim. Ethoxyquin is a synthetic antioxidant approved as a feed additive. The report states that FDA has raised concerns about “deleterious and poisonous” effects of the antioxidant, but the agency has “failed to take meaningful action to reevaluate or restrict” its use. Coccidiostats are a class of anti-parasitic drugs, and residues have been found in food, but again, the CFS report states that there is a lack of studies dedicated to the potential health effects. CFS and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy petitioned FDA in 2009 to remove all arsenic-based compounds, or arsenicals, from animal feed. The agency ultimately decided to withdraw approval for 98 out of 101 arsenic-based feed additives and later announced that it would take the remaining arsenicals off the market by 2016. “While this is a significant victory, FDA should have acted sooner to protect public health,” according to the CFS report. CFS is critical of FDA not just for a lack of transparency about drug information, but also for “not routinely monitor emerging data on approved drugs but [relying] on others to bring the data to its attention.” “FDA should use its existing authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to conduct regular, systematic reviews of the safety of animal drugs to ensure that they are still safe to be marketed,” the report recommends. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)