The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's voluntary policy to phase out "medically important" antimicrobials in food animals and phase in veterinary oversight of the products has an environmental group flagging the plan as a failure, even before it is official.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, which advocates for a variety of environmental policies, said the plan "misses the mark" when it comes to oversight of antimicrobial use.
"There is still no evidence that the FDA's voluntary plan will do anything to limit the increase in the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that endanger all of us," Natural Resources Defense Council health attorney Avinash Kar said in a statement this week. "Animals will still be fed antibiotics daily even though they aren't sick. While it's good to see FDA and corporations coming to the table on this, their solution doesn't cut it."
FDA's antibiotic phase-out plan, also called Guidance 213, was released in December. Since then, FDA announced Wednesday, all but one major pharmaceutical company has committed in writing to withdraw approvals for production uses of affected drugs, and change remaining therapeutic uses of their products from over-the-counter to use only with veterinary oversight.
The policy also comes with support from the American Veterinary Medical Association, which said Wednesday that the more judicious use of antimicrobials in farm animals, coupled with veterinary oversight on the farm, will benefit human and animal health.
"The AVMA believes that veterinarians should strive to optimize the therapeutic efficacy of, and minimize resistance to, antimicrobials," a released statement said. "The actions of the companies on [the compliance list] reflect that position, and we believe these actions will benefit both animal and public health."
NRDC argues, however, that the companies on the compliance list could "drop out at any point." The group also says that the FDA policy "fails to address the larger problem of reliance on these drugs to compensate for crowded conditions in lieu of healthier management practices."
As a result, a statement from NRDC said, "antibiotic use in the feed of animals could continue unabated."
NRDC also said that several companies participating in FDA's program have said they don't expect the guidance to affect their revenues, a point also publicized by another group, the Cornucopia Institute.
Others, while supportive of the policy in general, have also suggested slight modifications; the National Grain and Feed Association last week requested consideration of additional training requirements for veterinarians, as well modifications to recordkeeping on medicated feed manufacturing.
For more information on FDA's plan, check out a replay of a January webinar hosted by two University of Illinois professors and a U of I swine veterinarian.