In the United States, approximately 6 million pounds of antibiotics are prescribed by doctors every year. While this most certainly has been a factor in antibiotic resistance, the far more glaring problem is that approximately 30 million pounds of antibiotics are used in our annual food production. Almost 80% of the total antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used for livestock, whether they are sick or not. Many European countries have long since recognized this glaring problem and accordingly, have banned the use of growth promoting antibiotics in animal feed. But it is only now in the face of nightmare infections like something out of a bad movie, that the United States is compelled into action.
President Obama has issued an Executive Order for the federal government to work to reduce the spread and emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. This includes, among other things, the development of a new task force which has 5 months to come up with a 5 year plan to carry out the Executive Order's prime directive. There will also be a 20 million dollar "prize" to help facilitate the development of new drugs and diagnostic tools to combat antibiotic resistance. In addition, is the call to bolster support for the FDA's voluntary guidelines and rules issued in December 2013 to reduce the farm use of antibiotics. If the adage "too little too late" comes to mind, you are not alone.
The U.S. government has made its proverbial farm antibiotic bed, only now it is the American people who have to sleep in it. If we are to combat the serious problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria resultant from years and years of governmental neglect and corporate greed, we need strong and decisive political action and not political posturing. Not only do we need enforceable laws banning the use of growth promoting antibiotics in our animal feed, but we need to radically change our unsanitary food production industry as a whole. Where is the 5 year plan for that?
Unfortunately, all we appear to have received from our government is support for existing voluntary guidelines, "prize" money and politics as usual. Perhaps to expect more from a president who appointed former Monsanto attorney Michael Taylor as our Commissioner of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, is just plain foolish.
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.