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Industry Support of FDA’s Voluntary Guidelines Does Little to Address Antibiotic Resistance

Jul 01, 2014

Full industry participation of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) antimicrobial resistance strategy is not likely to reduce antibiotic use in food animal production or improve public health, said researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

In a six-month progress report, the FDA highlights their antimicrobial strategy and touts “full industry engagement” of voluntary guidelines established in December 2013. The guidelines were criticized upon their release 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.

“Without sales data, there is no way to translate this into actual changes in the amount or nature of antibiotic use moving forward.  This progress report really only highlights our earlier calls for a formal, transparent evaluation of progress.  Without that, there is no way to know if their approach is having any impact,” said Keeve Nachman, PhD, MHS, a scientist at the CLF.

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future media contact: Natalie Wood-Wright at 443-824-1371 or

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health media contact: Stephanie Desmon at 410-955-7619 or