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FDA Misses the Point in Report on Voluntary Antibiotic Guidelines

Mar 26, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) missed the point in a new report on drug companies’ claims that they will comply with voluntary guidelines on antibiotics used in food animal production, said the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF).

The guidelines were criticized upon their release in December for only asking companies to end sales of antibiotics to promote animal growth while endorsing the continued use of many of the same antibiotics to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions—a practice known as “disease prevention.” Both types of antibiotic use involve giving low doses of antibiotics to food animals and research has shown that low-dose use makes these drugs less effective for treating sick people.

Because growth promotion and disease prevention uses are similar and the guidelines address one but not the other, scientists are concerned that growth promotion will continue unchanged under the pretense of disease prevention. Keeve Nachman, PhD, MHS, a scientist at the CLF, issued the following statement:

“The guidelines simply take growth promotion and re-label it disease prevention, and will likely not change how antibiotics are used. If the voluntary guidelines do not rein in antibiotic use, compliance from drug companies is meaningless. The FDA should abandon this fruitless endeavor and use its regulatory authority to protect public health.”

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future media contact: Natalie Wood-Wright at 443-287-2771 or