By Barry Estabrook

No one is going to accuse the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of rushing to judgment.

In 1999, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to stop the common practice of feeding perfectly healthy livestock antibiotics, not to cure disease, but merely to make them pack on weight more efficiently. Of particular concern to the organization were antibiotics used to treat disease in humans. That petition came 22 years after the FDA itself said that such “sub-therapeutic” use of penicillin- and tetracycline-containing products in animals should be halted because it had “not been shown safe.” Studies in the mid-1970s had proven that bacteria easily evolved resistance to the antibiotics, becoming resistant “superbugs.”

Last week, the FDA denied the petition, along with a similar one filed in 2005 by Environmental Defense. Given that the FDA allowed the first petition to gather dust for 12 years, and that each year some 70,000 Americans die from resistant infections, its reason for denial is feeble at best. Pointing out that in it was working “cooperatively” with agribusinesses and pharmaceutical companies to phase out sub-therapeutic use of drugs, the FDA said that banning the practice outright “could take many years and would impose significant resource demands on the agency.”  [Read More]