Stop The Overuse Of Antibiotics

Rep. Jan Schakowsky leads call for improved antibiotic stewardship in meat production

Letter urges Congress to "Fund essential FDA actions to elevate and track progress towards better veterinary antibiotic stewardship and reduced antibiotic overuse"

PIRG’s public health team and partners worked closely with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky to write and circulate a Dear Colleague letter on FDA appropriations for fiscal year 2024. The letter, “Fund essential FDA actions to elevate and track progress towards better veterinary antibiotic stewardship and reduced antibiotic overuse,” lays out steps Congress can take to help the FDA keep antibiotics effective. 

The letter calls for an additional $20 million for the FDA to enhance antibiotic stewardship in meat production. Meat producers purchase nearly two-thirds of the medically important antibiotics sold in the United States, so we can’t fully combat antibiotic resistance without addressing antibiotic overuse in that sector. 

While the Department of Health and Human Services has set targets to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use in human health care, there’s no corresponding accountability in meat production. That’s why the $20 million ask includes $2 million for the FDA to write a report on establishing targets to reduce antibiotic use in meat production. 

The signers also request that the FDA issue final guidance on establishing duration limits on medically important antibiotics for use in food animals by the end of 2025. Duration limits are built into human antibiotic prescriptions: we’re told how much to take and for how long. However, in veterinary settings, many medically important antibiotics (about 1 in 3) have no clearly defined duration limit, so they can be fed to animals nearly continuously, even without signs of infection. That’s the perfect recipe for drug-resistant bacteria that can spread from farms and make people sick. 

Finally, the signers ask that the FDA release a new five-year plan on veterinary antibiotic stewardship for 2024-2028 since the previous five-year plan ends this year. The new plan should focus on the public health goal of reducing antibiotic use in meat production.

Thanks to the following offices for their support on the letter: Rep. Barragán, Rep. Beyer, Rep. Brownley, Rep. Casten, Rep. Danny Davis, Rep. DeSaulnier, Rep. Khanna, Rep. Lynch, Rep. McBath, Rep. McGovern, Rep. Moulton, Rep. Slotkin and Rep. Smith. We are especially grateful to Rep. Schakowsky for taking the lead on this critical issue.

Louis Sokolow
Louis Sokolow

Former Public Health Campaigns, Associate, PIRG

Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, PIRG

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