Tuesday, June 7, 2011

South Korea Bans Antibiotics for Healthy Farm Animals

While the battle to ban the non-medical administering of antibiotics to healthy farm animals in the United States tries to gain traction, South Korea has decided to join the European Union in restricting the use of the drugs.

Antibiotics are incorporated in low doses into animal feed. This speeds growth but has also led to the development of super bacteria resistant to antibiotics, jeopardizing the medicines essential to human health. In the United States, 70 percent of all antibiotics used are administered to healthy farm animals.

South Korea will go clean starting in July; the European Union enacted its ban in 2006. In both jurisdictions, farmers are allowed to treat sick animals with antibiotics.

Many in the United States are fighting for the same restrictions, sometimes taking novel approaches. For example, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other consumer groups just filed suit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The legal justification? According to Avinash Kar, an NRDC staff attorney:

"[The] FDA concluded in 1977 that feeding animals low doses of certain antibiotics used in human medicine -- namely, penicillin and tetracyclines -- could promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can pose a health risk for people.

"The law requires FDA to act on this conclusion, but FDA has failed to do so. The lawsuit would compel FDA to take action on its own findings, and move to withdraw approval for uses of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed for healthy animals.

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