Statement: New FDA data shows little progress in limiting antibiotic overuse

Media Contacts
Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, PIRG

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new data Monday showing that sales of medically important antibiotics approved for use in food-producing animals decreased by less than 1% from 2020 through 2021.

Even with that slight decline, sales of medically important antibiotics to meat producers have increased nearly 8% since 2017, signaling that FDA has done little to spur a reduction in antibiotic use in recent years. Beef and pork producers continue to purchase the lion’s share of medically important antibiotics, with chicken accounting for just 3% of sales.

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: 

“Without swift action to reduce antibiotic use, drug-resistant bacteria could claim millions of lives annually across the world. The current shortage of amoxicillin offers a glimpse into what life without antibiotics would be like.”

“Despite the clear threat to public health, the FDA’s approach is clearly ineffective when it comes to tackling the overuse of our life-saving antibiotics to produce meat.

“The European Union has been able to nearly halve sales of antibiotics for use in livestock over the last ten years by establishing reduction targets and gathering data to measure progress. The FDA should follow the EU’s example and set long-term targets for reducing overall use of medically important antibiotics in meat production.”