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U.S. PIRG statement on increase in sales of medically important antibiotics to produce meat for second year in a row

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new data Tuesday showing that overall sales of medically important antibiotics for use in food-animal production increased by 3 percent from 2018 through 2019, following a trend set the previous year. 

Sales were about the same for use in cattle, increased by 9 percent in swine production and decreased by 13 percent for chicken farming. The majority of medically important antibiotics sold for use in the United States go to food-producing animals -- not humans. Overusing antibiotics in meat production can breed drug-resistant bacteria that can travel off the farm and make people sick. 

In response to the FDA’s report, Sydney Riess, Public Health Campaigns associate for U.S. PIRG, released the following statement: 

“We should be clamping down on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, not fostering their rise. The less we use antibiotics, the better our chances of preserving these life-saving medicines for the future.

“From 2015 to 2017, sales of medically important antibiotics for use in food-producing animals declined sharply, in large part due to decreases in the chicken industry. But with 83 percent of these sales now going to the beef and pork industries, and a steep jump in the amount of these drugs diverted to pigs last year, it’s time for serious action in those sectors to reduce antibiotic use. 

“This trend confirms the need for federal policy that prohibits the use of medically important antibiotics in food animal production unless it’s to treat sick animals or to control a verified disease outbreak.

“Overusing antibiotics in livestock is one of the foremost contributors to antibiotic resistance. If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, we’ll turn the clock back on modern medicine, making common infections, simple surgeries and childbirth much more dangerous -- even life-threatening.”

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