New U.S. rules aim to cut antibiotic use in farm animals

an image of the Stars & Stripes(Reuters) – U.S. regulators announced new guidelines on Wednesday to phase out the use of antibiotics as a growth enhancer in livestock, in an effort to stem a surge in human resistance to these drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration said the antibiotics could still be used to treat illnesses in animals raised for meat, but should otherwise be pared back over the next three years under a program to keep them out of the human food supply.

The program is voluntary, but the agency expects drugmakers to fully adhere to the guidelines. It said two of the biggest purveyors of these antibiotics, Eli Lilly & Co and Zoetis Inc, had agreed to narrow their use.

Doctors and hospitals have become increasingly worried by new strains of bacteria that cannot be controlled by a wide range of current antibiotics. It is suspected that part of the reason for the emergence of “super bugs” is that people who eat meat containing antibiotics can develop resistance to the drugs as bacteria mutate to thwart them.

“Because antimicrobial drug use in both humans and animals can contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary,” the FDA said in a release.

In a “guidance” document, the FDA told global drugmakers and animal health companies to revise the labels of medically important antibiotics by removing references to use in animal production. The FDA said voluntary compliance was the fastest way, but that it could propose regulations if necessary.

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