WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration is urging meat producers to limit the amount of antibiotics they give animals in response to public health concerns about the drugs.
The FDA said the use of antibiotics in meat poses a "serious public health threat" because they create antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans who eat the meat. The agency is recommending that producers use the drugs judiciously, limiting their use unless they are medically necessary and only using them with the oversight of a veterinarian.
"Developing strategies for reducing (antibiotic) resistance is critically important for protecting both public and animal health," the agency said in draft guidelines printed in the Federal Register on Monday.
The agency said misuse and overuse of the drugs has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics have been used in meat to kill pathogens for more than 50 years, and the FDA acknowledged that practice has had "tremendous benefits" to animal and human health.
Of greater concern, the agency said, is when producers use antibiotics on healthy animals to speed growth and reduce feed costs. The agency is also concerned about antibiotics that are given continuously through feed or water to entire herds or flocks of animals.
The agency said it is expecting to issue more specific guidelines in the near future.