Consumer groups say new antibiotics rules for livestock don’t go far enough

New federal regulations mark the first serious attempt in at least 20 years to tackle what many have called the systematic overuse of antibiotics in healthy farm animals. Yet the rules that went into effect Jan. 1 do not come without controversy.

MINNEAPOLIS — New federal regulations mark the first serious attempt in at least 20 years to tackle what many have called the systematic overuse of antibiotics in healthy farm animals.

Yet the rules that went into effect Jan. 1 — and have been in the works for several years — do not come without controversy. Livestock associations have said the new rules that pertain to veterinarians will increase paperwork and costs. Conversely, some consumer groups say the regulations don’t go far enough.

The regulations require producers who raise cattle, cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals to obtain a veterinarian’s approval before using any antibiotics that also are important to human health. And antibiotics may no longer be used in healthy animals as a feed additive to increase weight.

The routine use of antibiotics in animals that are also used in human drugs has been a growing concern of consumers and health professionals.

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“The overarching goal is to ensure these medically important antimicrobials that are given to food-producing animals in medicated feed and drinking water are used judiciously,” said Mike Murphy, veterinary medical officer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine.

The problem is that the more frequently antibiotics are used, he said, the more quickly bacteria can develop resistance to them, rendering the lifesaving drugs less effective or ineffective.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year in the United States at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at…

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