Farm to Table: How New FDA Guidelines Affect Beef and Dairy
Published January 30th, 2014
Antibiotics are used in cattle as well as people to fight sickness.
If overused, however, the animals can become immune to them, opening the door for other diseases.
Antibiotics also have been shown to promote growth in animals, which some food producers have taken advantage of.
The Food and Drug Administration is now limiting the use of some over-the-counter antibiotics.
New science developed at the University of Florida might make this issue a thing of the past.
The FDA says that antibiotics can make drug resistant bacteria show up in beef and in milk.
But ranchers and experts say rumors of this happening have been greatly exaggerated.
All for one and one for all.
"We're all human and we don't want antibiotic resistants in humans either. We're human and we're going to need them too," said Florida Cattlemen's Association Treasurer Ken Griner.
Griner and Don Quincey run major cattle operations in North Central Florida.
"We don't use antibiotics as a growth promotant so they aren't given antibiotics on a regular basis only as an animal health and welfare issue," said Don Quincey, owner of Quincey Cattle Company.
Quincey sends cattle to many parts of the country to be fattened in feed lots.
That's where many antibiotics are given to cattle. The medicine can help animals grow larger.
The Food and Drug Administration recently ruled that some widely-used antibiotics can no longer be purchased over-the-counter.
"I think it's common sense really. We don't need to be using antibiotics as growth promotants. I think that's probably a good thing and I support those guidelines," said Quincey.
Penicillin and Tetracycline are among the list of drugs the FDA has restricted to a prescription.
They can be administered by injection, or added to the animal's food and water.
These new guidelines will require more from veterinarians.
"The veteranarian will have to know the farm, know the conditions in which that product is being used and obivously, I'm assuming there might be some cost providing that technical service to the producer," said dairy cattle specialist and veterinarian Dr. Jose Santos.
The trouble is animals and humans can develop resistance to antimicrobials, and become susceptible to other diseases.
University of Florida experts say 70 percent of antibiotics produced in the U.S. are for animal use. Animal producers say that the new FDA guidelines might affect their animals welfare unless new research can get ahead of the curve.
Dr. K.C. Jeong and his research team at the University of Florida are developing a unique new material made out of shrimp and crab that could cure illnesses in animals and humans.
"We processed them and they generate some kind of drug. It's very biocompatable and it doesn't cause any side effect," said Dr. Jeong with the UF Animal Sciences and Emerging Pathogens.
It may take a couple of years for this research to be complete but it's exciting news for cattle ranchers.
"I think science today is just amazing. Whether it deals with human medicine or animal medicine, we have more scientists in the country than ever before and it's amazing the science that comes out of it," said Quincey.
Most think this move by the FDA was to reassure the public that we have a quality food supply.
In the beef industry, the USDA has strict guidelines on testing for antibiotic residue in meat.
"If there is an issue found that there's any residue, it gets discarded," said Quincey.
In the dairy industry, the United States produces close to 200 billion pounds of milk every year and of that, .002 percent of the supply is diagnosed with a residue.
And every truckload of milk is tested for antimicrobials before it reaches the creamery.
"The probability of having a milk tank contaminated with antimicrobals is very low and often times those very few cases they happen because of an error, not because it was purposely caused," said Dr. Santos.
Veterinarians and scientists believe animal producers receive much of the blame and say there is evidence supporting both sides.
But public oversight is seen as a good thing by those who provide the meat and milk you feed your families.
"I think we all have to take time to involved the public and let them know we get up everyday and try to do it like it ought to be done and like they would want it to be done," said Griner.
"We don't want to overuse antibiotics, they are very expensive. But we need to be able to use them when we do have health issues, so we don't want that taken away. But we don't want to be using them on a daily basis for growth promotants," said Quincey.
Animal pharmaceutical companies have 90 days to let the FDA know if they will voluntarily move these over-the-counter drugs to prescription only use.
They will then have three years to implement the changes.
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