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Inappropriate Antibiotic Use in Animals ‘Makes Everyone Less Safe,’ CDC Says

Agency Makes Strong Recommendation to Reduce Antibiotic Abuse on Factory Farms
Contact: 
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ssciammacco@ewg.org
For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In its first comprehensive report on antibiotic resistance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges what many public health officials have known for years: there is a critical link between antibiotic use in agriculture and antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, Environmental Working Group’s Executive Director Heather White said in a statement.

“It’s no surprise to see the nation’s top public health agency confirming what we’ve known all along,” said White. “The CDC recognizes the threat of antibiotic resistance for what it is – a serious threat to public health.”

The report also makes a strong recommendation to phase out the practice of using antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals.

"Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe,” the CDC states. “Stopping even some of the inappropriate and unnecessary use of antibiotics in people and animals would help greatly in slowing down the spread of resistant bacteria.”

“The recommendation to only use antibiotics in animals to manage and treat diseases is a common-sense and important measure to protect public health,” said White. “However, EWG is disappointed that the CDC endorsed the Food and Drug Administration’s strategy of using only voluntary measures to curb antibiotic abuse on factory farms. The FDA has a dismal record of inaction on this issue and voluntary measures are really too little too late.”

EWG research has found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria is pervasive in the meat Americans buy at the grocery store and have become a direct source of foodborne illness. Unnecessary antibiotic use threatens to make important antibiotics ineffective in treating human disease and further spreads antibiotic resistance.

“EWG will continue to advocate for more aggressive steps to prevent superbugs from proliferating and factory farms from squandering the effectiveness of vital medicines,” said White.  “An issue that the CDC admits has such ‘potentially catastrophic consequences of inaction’ can’t endure any more of FDA’s watch and wait strategy.”