White House issues executive order combatting antibiotic resistance

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2014 - The White House issued today an executive order to create a plan to fight antibiotic resistance, a problem the Administration said is a “serious threat to public health and the economy.”

The order instructs the Food and Drug Administration to continue working to “eliminate the use of medically important classes of antibiotics for growth promotion purposes in food-producing animals.” Scientists say overuse of these antibiotics can lead to germs that cannot be treated through traditional use of antibiotics.

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By signing the order, President Barack Obama will create a task force co-chaired by the Secretaries of Defense, Agriculture, and the Department of Health and Human Services. The group will work towards new regulations and submit a 5-year action plan to implement those regulations.

“Antibiotics save millions of lives each year in the United States and around the world,” the order reads. “The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, however, represents a serious threat to public health and the economy.”

National Pork Producers Council President Howard Hill said his organization was happy with the announcement and hopes USDA and FDA will work with NPPC as they move forward with the steps called for in the order.

“In its executive order on combating antibiotic resistant bacteria, the White House acknowledged something that (NPPC) has been saying for years: More epidemiological research is needed to understand the key drivers of increased antibiotic resistance,” Hill said in a release.

Caroline Smith DeWall, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said she was happy with the order, but doesn't think it goes far enough.

“The Administration can't tackle antimicrobial resistance without tackling unnecessary uses of medically important antibiotics on the farm,” Smith DeWall said. “Today cattle, pigs, and poultry are given three times as much antibiotics by volume than are used to treat humans.”

Smith DeWall said this level of antibiotic application may be useful in animal agriculture, but said it increases the risk for consumers to develop more serious infections from “antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs.'”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said any potential regulation should be flexible enough to protect the food supply, but also allow producers to care for their sick animals.

“Just as parents do not give antibiotics to a child, except when necessary and prescribed by a doctor, farmers don't rush to treat animals with antibiotics,” Stallman said.

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths can be blamed on antibiotic resistance in the United States every year.

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