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The FDA is enforcing a new rule to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals we eat

The threat of superbugs is a real concern. For that reason, the FDA is providing new regulations concerning the use of antibiotics in animals we eat.

Drug-resistant bacteria have been a troubling issue for hospitals. A few months after after the launch of a five-year plan to fight superbugs unveiled by the Obama administration earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration announced a new rule Tuesday in an attempt to reduce the amount of antibiotics given to animals that people consume.

The Veterinary Feed Directive requires a veterinarian to be present when a farmer administers antibiotics to ensure that they are only given when an animal actually has an infection. This rule not only applies to animals that will be consumed, such as cattle, pigs and poultry, but also to animal feed.

The Hill spelled out what this rule will require:

Under the final rule, veterinarians must issue feed directives in the context of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) under the guidelines of a state where the veterinarian practices.

In states that lack appropriate VCPR requirements, directives must follow the federally defined VCPR standard, under which vets are required to engage with the client to assume responsibility for making clinical judgments about an animal’s health, have sufficient knowledge of the animal by conducting examinations and/or visits to the facility where the animal is managed, and provide any necessary follow-up evaluation or care.

“The actions the FDA has taken to date represent important steps toward a fundamental change in how antimicrobials can be legally used in food-producing animals,” Michael Taylor, the agency’s deputy commissioner for foods, said in a news release, according to The Hill.

The Obama administration’s move reflects an effort to prevent the growing presence of drug-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, which have been a major concern for hospitals trying to keep patients safe.

The FDA’s rule, which will take effect in 120 days, is expected to cost the livestock industry $1.41 million in a one-time compliance cost. The FDA expects the annual benefits of a more efficient veterinarian feed directive to be $13,000 over 10 years. Additionally, the agency said the reduction in veterinarian labor costs from this rule is expected to produce a cost savings of more than $7.8 million per year.

Photo: Flickr user Micolo J