What the FDA doesn't want to tell you about livestock antibiotic use

Short version: There is LOTS the FDA doesn't want to tell you about livestock antibiotic use. And that matters. As I reminded you yesterday, the antibiotics we use to keep ourselves alive and healthy are rapidly losing their effectiveness against a whole host of diseases. Antibiotic resistance to disease is driven by overuse of antibiotics — both in humans and in animals. And there are lots of antibiotics being used on animals. The trouble is, public health researcher know very little about that use. Because the FDA refuses to release more than the bare minimum of data. For added fun, last year, they stopped even trying to regulate antibiotic use on livestock — opting instead for voluntary self-control systems.


  1. I’m pretty sure the FDA is not interested in protecting the health of anyone.  I’m fairly certain all they protect are corporate profits.

    -abs wishes that wasn’t the case, but he thinks their behavior is conclusive

    1. That can’t be the whole story.  Many new drugs and medical treatments are available elsewhere in the world before the United States.  This is because the FDA forces new products go through much more testing than other countries require.  If the FDA was solely interested in protecting corporate profits, these extra restrictions would not exist.

      1.  On the other hand, many of those very same restrictions create barriers to entry for small operations trying to compete with industrial agriculture companies.  For example, FDA regulations prevent Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms from slaughtering the animals he raises in an ethical, environmentally way on-site.  They’d need a full-scale industrial slaughterhouse to be able to cope with the costs imposed by regulation.

        So your argument isn’t the whole story either.  On the other hand, I’m not sure we’d be better off without the FDA.  It IS pretty complicated.

        1. We might be better off if it wasn’t packed with shills appointed by Bush.  And I don’t think Obama has replaced very many of those.

      2. The nice thing about science is it can cross borders easily. What other countries do is keep careful track of what the FDA is doing, and follow our lead.

  2. Me and my friends in the local agriculture movement have been talking about the overuse of antibiotics since the 1970s.  We were patronized then as no-nothing hippies scared of our own shadows.  Overuse of our newest and bestest “magic bullets” is a consistent theme in our culture.  We need to listen to the late, great economist Elinor Ostrom, “NO PANACEAS!!!”

  3. I gotta love those voluntary self-control systems.  Can we just volunteer to regulate ourselves in traffic?  No more cops to give out tickets.  We just have to promise we won’t go over the speed limit or run any red lights!  Everyone will just volunteer to control themselves.  I’m sure that will totally work.

    1. In Holland, several towns have removed traffic signage and intersection lights and have found that accidents decrease substantially.

      But that has nothing to do with regulations on things the FDA deals with.

    1. You keep your filthy liberal government hands of my penicillin’d beef!

      But yes, absolutely it’s a broken system.  Any sane company would use a bit of foresight and attempt to minimize risk, research and develop solutions, but the corporate system as it exists, will only look as far ahead as the next trimester stockholder’s report.

      And what does it matter anyway?  In case of a disaster, they’re gonna get bailed out with tax dollars, aggressively pushed by excrements like Bohner and Cantor.

      1. Indeed. Economists are stubbornly sure that 3% compound growth can go on forever, as long as government keeps their hands off the economy. And so the financial world only cares about the growth curve and will bail the moment it dips below that percentage.

        Never mind that stock trading do not benefit the company beyond the initial offerings (heh, why did that sound like a pagan ritual?) as the majority of the trading is on the secondary market.

        The only people caring about the long term of a company are their workforce, because they go paycheck to paycheck with barely any opportunity to save up. Crash a company and you may well crash a whole community these days.

        And the last bit is what is dangled like a Damocles sword above every local politician…

  4. The greed of scumbag corporatists will end up killing us all.  It’s time to start naming names instead of pointing to a faceless “them” that can scurry and hide from public scrutiny.

    Who can we hold responsible? We need names.

  5. They use antibiotics in large part not because of health reasons, but because it gets the animals to their sell weight using less food so is a cost saver for them.

    My stance is that I will stop using antibiotics from the doctor (which I rarely use anyway) after farms stop using antibiotics as a standard practice.  Thanks for the long-overdue article. 

    1. it gets the animals to their sell weight using less food

      So it had to be worse than we thought.  Practically inevitable, right?

  6. The whole industrial food system is at once necessary and IMO very misguided. I would like to see things governed with a vision dedicated to long term sustainability and a wiser understanding of the interdependence of our planetary system.  The use of antibiotics in meat production is one of our most egregious errors. Capitalism’s short term motivation is killing our planet.

    Thanks Maggie for putting it out there. It seems a good topic for more in depth reporting.

Comments are closed.