September 29, 2013

While steps have been taken on a federal level to address the growing threat of antibiotic resistance [“Confront the superbugs,” editorial, Sept. 20], the 2 million antibiotic-resistant illnesses per year in the United States suggest that “laudable” efforts are not enough to address this crisis.

The recommendations laid out in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are toothless without action from the Food and Drug Administration, the White House, the Agriculture Department and Congress addressing growth-promotion uses of antibiotics and disease-prevention uses.

We must change how antibiotics are used in animal agriculture to prevent the emergence of superbugs. The FDA’s guidelines are a good first step, but this voluntary plan places the onus of reduction on drug companies, and it has yet to be finalized after languishing with the agency for more than a year. It focuses more on label changes than changing antibiotic use in livestock. Changing how antibiotics are labeled is insufficient.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) recently introduced bipartisan bills that would do much to help curb routine antibiotic misuse by requiring the FDA to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics in food animals that are not sick unless such use is proven to be safe.

The CDC has sounded the alarm. If we are serious about heeding the warning, we must throw our weight behind this important legislation and demand swift action by the FDA.

Susan Vaughn Grooters, Washington

The writer is a food safety research and policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a member of the executive committee of Keep Antibiotics Working.