Post by Dan Charles and Eliza Barclay, The Salt at NPR Food (1/28/14)
According to newly released documents, the Food and Drug Administration concluded years ago that many of the antibiotics farmers use on food animals are risky for human health.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, acquired the documents through the Freedom of Information Act and published a report with the findings on Monday. The documents show that from 2001 to 2010, FDA scientists studied 30 different antibiotics that were approved decades ago, and called 18 of the drugs "high risk" because they could expose humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food supply. The NRDC says that since then, the FDA has ignored these findings.
"FDA continues to knowingly allow the use of drugs in animal feed that likely pose a 'high risk' to human health," Carmen Cordova, NRDC microbiologist and lead author of the report, said in a statement. "That's a breach of their responsibility and the public trust."
Farmers sometimes give chickens or pigs low doses of antibiotics to help them grow faster or prevent disease. Public health researchers say such non-therapeutic use can lead to drug-resistant bacteria in the animals and those microbes can infect people.