Government agencies led by USDA kick off public meetings on use of antibiotics

The USDA, along with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kicked off the discussion on how to collect farm data on the use of antibiotics in animals with its first public hearing last week.

The meeting, which was held on Wednesday in Washington, DC, was designed to open commentary on possible ways to capture more on-farm antimicrobial drug use and resistance data. The commentary for the government push is open until Nov. 30.

William Flynn, deputy director for science policy at the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said during the meeting that there are a number of sources needed to address antibiotic resistance, including sales, on-farm use, resistance trends in foodborne bacteria, animal demographics and health, and FDA inspection procedures, Food Safety News reported.

Beth Bell, director of the The National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases

"Tracking the use of antibiotics is critical to knowing how we're doing with stewardship," Beth Bell, of the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said. "Good information about where, why and how animal antibiotics are used is the basic information needed to know when stewardship is going well."

Currently, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) tracks antimicrobial resistance patterns in bacteria that has been isolated from humans, retail meats and slaughtered animals. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies are required to report basic information about antibiotic sales to U.S. regulatory agencies.

Farm use of antibiotics is collected on a limited basis, but that information isn't considered detailed enough to address the antimicrobial stewardship conversation, experts said.

"Not one single data source is going to answer all of our questions in a meaningful way," Flynn said. "We need to pull together all these sources of info into an integrated report."

At the hearing, the agencies outlined what such a report might look like and said they hoped to publish the first report of that kind in 2018.

The animal health industry has been under attack from scientific and public health advocacy groups that believe companies aren't doing enough to eliminate the use of antibiotics for fattening up food animals, which scientists have said could lead to "super" bugs that would be resistant to current antibiotics. The White House has aggressively promoted the reduction of antibiotic use in production animals, which has resulted in some of the largest meat producers in the U.S. pledging to reduce or eliminate their use.

- read the Food Safety News story
- check out the FDA meeting notice