White House meeting focuses on reducing use of antibiotics
- A group of representatives from hospitals, food producers, professional medical societies and restaurant chains met together at the White House as part of the government's larger effort to curtail excessive antibiotic use, with the goal of reducing the increasing problem antibiotic-resistant infections, the New York Times reports.
- As a result, numerous food producers have pledged to eliminate use of antibiotics in food, and hospitals have agreed to scrutinize the administration of antibiotics to patients.
- This meeting signals recognition that the large amount of antibiotics in the food supply and the use of the medicines in patients has contributed to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. All told, at least two million people become infected with such infections each year, and 23,000 people die.
Tuesdays' meeting, convened by the Obama administration, went remarkably well in that there was a widespread consensus that antibiotic use in agriculture, animal farming, and hospitals needs to be reduced. During the meeting, Foster Farms and Tyson Foods pledged to eliminate antibiotics from their processes, in response to widespread consumer pressure and pressure from intermediary customers, such as McDonald's and Chick-fil-A.
The challenge, of course, is that the widespread use of antibiotics for many years has decimated their antibacterial power and given rise to a class of super-bugs that cannot be easily vanquished. However, the government's commitment to reducing the presence of antibiotics in food is an important step in addressing this challenge.
In addition to getting food producers and others to commit to reducing antibiotics in the food production process, the FDA has finalized a rule in which farmers must obtain a prescription from a veterinarian in order to give antibiotics to their animals—a major change to a system that allowed farmers to dose their animals with antibiotics with very little regulatory oversight.