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FDA: Antibiotic Sales Drop 10% for Livestock in 2016

Antibiotic sales for use in livestock has dropped according to a report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

On Dec. 7, FDA released a summary report for 2016 on “Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food Producing Animals.” A key finding in the report was antibiotic sales and distribution in the U.S. dropped 10% from 2015 to 2016 for food producing animals.

Since FDA began collecting sales data in 2009, this is the first time that year-over-year sales of antimicrobials have declined.

In this past year’s report it was also the first time antimicrobial sales were broken down by individual species.

In 2016, estimated sales and distribution of medically important drugs were broken down as follows for the major livestock classifications:

Cattle 43%
Swine 37%
Chickens 6%
Other Species/Unknown 4%

Medically important antimicrobials accounted for 60% of the domestic sales of all antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals, in 2016. The sales figures for medically important antibiotics in livestock were as follows:

Tetracyclines 70%
Penicillins 10%
Macrolides 7%
Sulfas 4%
Aminoglycosides 4%
Lincosamides 2%
Cephalosporins and Fluoroquinolones each for less than 1%

It is important to note that implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) did not go into full effect until the start of 2017, so these sales figures would not be impacted by that program.

The use of antibiotics in livestock production has become a hot topic with the threat of antibiotic resistance form “superbugs.”

“Actions speak louder than words, and the most action we’ve seen on antibiotics has come from food companies. It’s no coincidence that now we’re seeing a slight downturn in sales, and we’re cheering this good news,” says Matthew Wellington, U.S. PIRG Antibiotics Program Director. “But we’ll need much steeper reductions in the coming years if we’re going to keep antibiotics working to heal sick people.”

Restaurants like Subway, McDonald’s, Chipotle and Panera Bread, have all made pushes to go antibiotic-free with some or all of their menu items.

Meat packers have gone that direction, too. Tyson Foods set the goal in 2015 of going antibiotic-free with all chickens raised for the company by September 2017. According to Tyson, in June 2017 all chicken were in the never-ever program.

Perdue, Foster Farms, and JBS-owned Pilgrim’s Pride have or are moving to go antibiotic-free with their chicken as well.

No major beef or pork packer has made the move to go fully antibiotic-free, but the majority offer antibiotic-free or natural products that are in “never-ever programs.”

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