Small decrease in antibiotic sales to meat production is not enough

Media Contacts
Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, PIRG

Bold action is needed to address antibiotic overuse


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new data Tuesday showing that sales of medically important antibiotics approved for use in food-producing animals decreased by three percent between 2019 and 2020. 

Sales to the chicken industry decreased by 27 percent over that time, with slight drops in sales to cattle and swine producers. Sales to turkey producers increased by 7 percent. The majority of medically important antibiotics sold for use in the United States go to food-producing animals — not humans. Overusing antibiotics in meat production can breed drug-resistant bacteria that can travel off the farm and make people sick. 

In response to the FDA’s report, PIRG’s Public Health Campaigns Director Matt Wellington released the following statement: 

“Any decrease in antibiotics sales to the meat industry is encouraging to see but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the decline we truly need to address antibiotic overuse. 

“If we don’t change our ways, antibiotic resistance could claim millions of lives globally. The good news is that we know how to address it now – the less we use antibiotics, the better our chances of preserving these life-saving medicines for the future. 

“For a blueprint for positive change, our lawmakers should look to the European Union, where a new policy taking effect in 2022 will prohibit routinely using medically important antibiotics to prevent disease brought on by industrial farming conditions. That’s the kind of bold action we need in the United States.”