The FDA is expected to approve the use of a powerful antibiotic in cattle despite warnings it would speed the appearance of resistant microbes. InterVet Inc. has applied to market their drug Cefquinome for treatment of a pneumonia-like disease in cows. It seems that the application will probably be granted due to a change in FDA rules.
Cefquinome belongs to a class of potent antibiotics, which are among medicine's last defense against several serious human infections. No drug from that class has ever been approved in the United States for use in animals.
Numerous health groups, including the American Medical Association, have warned the FDA that administering Cefquinome in animals would very likely speed the emergence of microbes resistant to that important class of antibiotic. Those “supermicrobes” could then spread to humans.
Oddly enough, the FDA advisory board rejected Intervet’s request last fall to market this drug. So, what has changed? The FDA recently implemented a "guidance document" that shows incredible favor to pharmaceutical companies, while exhibiting little respect for the recommendations of the World Health Organization. In line with this new policy, unless a ‘direct link to human mortality’ is proven from the use of these drugs on animals, the FDA should find no reason to prohibit its marketing or use.
Unfortunately, any potential harm to the health of our population may not surface until it is too late. Passing antibiotics such as these directly into our food supply may result in a very risky experiment on humans. If and when any negative affects surface, reversing the damage may prove too difficult.
The average American may be subject to the approval of potentially harmful drugs such as these without a voice. However, making the best choices at the supermarket is a powerful weapon. Refusing to purchase conventional milk and beef, and reaching for organic whenever the need arises will send a message to suppliers while limiting personal health risks. If better quality is demanded, they will have no choice but to offer it. Though prices of organic may be a hindrance at first, as supply increases to meet with rising demand, our wallets will reap the benefits.
Keep in mind that the use of hormones and antibiotics on cattle is legal within the United States. Unless it specifically states ‘certified organic’ or antibiotic and hormone-free, it is safe to assume that hormones and antibiotic residues may be present in the beef or milk. It is illegal to administer hormones to poultry and pigs, though antibiotics are permitted.