FDA tightens rules on putting antibiotics in livestock feed and water

Jan 4, 2017

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A federal regulation that took effect Jan. 1 will only allow livestock feed and water laced with antibiotics to be used only under a veterinarian’s supervision.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, feedlots, ranchers and even 4-H kids sometimes give their animals feed and water laced with antibiotics because it is known to help promote growth and prevent disease.

But because of a growing concern about the increase in antibiotic-resistant germs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently updated a regulation known as the Veterinary Feed Directive, which says the practice can only be done by a veterinarian or under a veterinarian’s supervision.

Dr. Paul Morley, who does infectious disease research at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, says the rule will increase accountability in the animal feed industry and the food-animal production system.

According to the FDA’s website, the regulation requires veterinarians to issue Veterinary Feed Directives within the contact of a veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR), and specifies the following as key elements for defining a VCPR: the veterinarian must engage with the client (i.e., the animal producer) to assume responsibility for making clinical judgments about animal health; have sufficient knowledge of the animal by virtue of examination and/or visits to the facility where the animal is managed; and provide for any necessary follow-up evaluation or care.

According to Colorado Public Radio, the directive only affects medications that come from drug classes that have therapeutic use in human medicine; drugs used only on animals will not be affected.