Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has posted to its Website documents relating to the use of antimicrobial drugs in livestock feed received from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under a Freedom of Information Act request. According to PEER, internal memos show that FDA is not, as the agency has claimed, working successfully with industry to phase out this use of antimicrobials, estimated at 30 million pounds in feed troughs annually. PEER claims that “70,000 Americans die each year from drug-resistant infections” and that the “rise of drug-resistant ‘super diseases’ is driven by overuse and misuse of antimicrobial drugs in livestock feed primarily to promote livestock growth.”

In litigation, FDA defended its failure to timely follow through on proceedings to withdraw from use two antimicrobials by claiming that it had abandoned formal rulemaking in favor of more effective voluntary measures. Details about a court order requiring that FDA initiate withdrawal proceedings appear in Issue 432 of this Update. According to agency documents, one strategy memo states, “We recognized that the voluntary strategy has certain limitations in that (1) it lacks specifically defined/mandated timeframes; (2) its success is dependent on drug sponsors deciding it is in their best interest to work cooperatively with the agency; and (3) FDA collects insufficient data on drug use . . . to measure the effectiveness of the strategy.” See PEER Press Release, October 17, 2012.