Superbugs vs antibiotics: the FDA rules

The FDA has finally published new rules to deal with the overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming. The negotiations regarding this issue have been rumbling on for years and centre on the concern that long-term use of low doses of antibiotics amongst farm animals creates superbugs that have evolved to display antibiotic resistance.


The new FDA regulations came into effect after years of pressure from organisations such as the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), which has lambasted the new FDA guidelines as akin to “putting lipstick on a pig”. The feeling amongst some pressure groups is that the move is too little, too late.

The gist of the document is that biopharmaceutical companies are no longer allowed to market their antimicrobial drugs to farmers for promoting weight gain; however, they are still allowed to use antibiotics for disease resistance, albeit only with veterinary approval.


The senior attorney for the NRDC, Avinash Kar, has issued a statement accusing the FDA of leaving a loophole in the regulations that makes a mockery of them. Farmers will be able to continue to use antibiotics to manage the unsanitary conditions on their overcrowded, unhygienic farms and the upshot is that antibiotic resistance will continue to rise.

Threat to public health

Governments, pharmaceutical experts, industry representatives and scientists have been aware of the problem of antibiotic resistance and the so-called superbugs since the 1970s.

The problem of antibiotic resistance has been cited by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the top seven public health threats. Many common illnesses and even some STI’s have built up a resistance to the drugs that are traditionally used to treat them. This is why prevention and early diagnosis from methods such as Home StI kits from companies such as bexleysexualhealth, in the case of STIs is incredibly important. As is the search to find alternative drugs to effectively treat these conditions.

It is thought that 700,000 people die every year due to antibiotic resistance and that this figure could rise to 10 million by 2050. The overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming is held largely to blame; however, governments have remained silent on the issue and now industry has stepped in with a new initiative that scores food manufacturers on their antibiotic practice credentials. Perhaps consumer pressure can force change where regulations have feared to tread?

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