The US Food and Drug Association (FDA) is having a federal lawsuit filed against by a coalition of consumer groups who say that the use of human antibiotics in animal feed creates dangerous superbugs.
The groups allege that the practice of including penicillin and tetracycline in the feed of healthy animals could result in the rise of bacteria and superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics in people.
The drugs are usually added to the feeds of cows, pigs, chickens and other livestock and although the dose is so low it is unable to treat diseases, it leaves surviving bacteria stronger and more able to able to resist them.
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The lawsuit claims that the FDA discovered the risks of adding antibiotics to animal feed in 1977 and although the health agency was required to act on its findings the FDA “failed to take any action to protect human health,” the groups said in a statement.
Groups included in the coalition are the Food Animal Concerns Trust, Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), Centre for Science in the Public Interest, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Their aim is to “compel the FDA to take action on the agency's own safety findings, withdrawing approval for most non-therapeutic uses of penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed.”
The executive director of NRDC, Peter Lehner, said in an interview: “Accumulating evidence shows that antibiotics are becoming less effective, while our grocery store meat is increasingly laden with drug-resistant bacteria.”
However, the FDA believes that when used properly, the drugs could play a key role against harmful bugs.