WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration plans to restrict a family of antibiotics commonly used to treat livestock, citing concerns that overuse might promote the development of drug-resistant bacteria that can infect people.
On Wednesday, the FDA said it would limit the use of cephalosporin in cattle, swine, chicken and turkey. Those antibiotics can no longer be used to prevent diseases in livestock starting April 5, though they can still be used to treat illnesses, the FDA said.
Consumer advocates support the FDA’s decision. But they say the move is long overdue and deals with only one small part of a much larger public health issue tied to the overuse of antibiotics in animals. They want FDA to also curtail the use of antibiotics in animal feed, an issue the agency has been grappling with since 1977.
The problem, public health advocates say, is that some antibiotics used to treat illnesses in people are widely used on animals to promote disease prevention and weight gain, as well as compensate for crowded conditions on ranches and farms. The prevalence of those antibiotics in livestock has been linked to the creation of drug-resistant “superbugs” that can spread to humans who work with or eat the animals.
Resistance to cephalosporin can be especially devastating because it is the most common class of antibiotics prescribed to humans. This family of antibiotics, which includes brands such as Keflex and the generic cephalexin, are used to treat illnesses, including pneumonia and salmonella infections in children.