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Australia Veterinarians Recommend Ban on Animal Feed Antibiotic
(from April 7, 2003)
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) proposed, April 3, 2003, to ban all livestock growth-boosting uses of the antibiotic virginiamycin in local meat production. "Since a related antibiotic is now being used in human medicine, we wish to avoid any likelihood of antibiotic resistance developing and affecting people," APVMA's principal scientist, Tim Dyke, said in a statement. "Canceling its use as a growth promotant [promoter] in animals is the way to do this." If Austria initiated a ban, the pharmaceutical could still be used to treat animal disease, as long as it was prescribed by a veterinarian. The recommendation follows a move by the Council of European Agricultural Ministers, which banned the antibiotic in 1998 for fear of bacterial resistance. The European ban was upheld despite legal challenges by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.

The use of this and other antibiotics in meat production has been controversial for years. In the U.S. virginiamycin has a long history of use in animal production. In 1998, an expert panel convened by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in Washington, D.C. reported that antibiotic-resistant human diseases have "clearly occurred" due to bacteria from livestock treated with antibiotics and that data indicate at least some of this resistance is due to the administration of doses of growth-promoting antibiotics. That same year, a National Academy of Sciences report, prepared at the request of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, concluded, "There is a link between the use of antibiotics in food animals, the development of bacterial resistance to these drugs, and human disease."

At a May 1999 food-safety meeting at Georgetown University, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned that the continued use of virginiamycin for animal growth promotion could threaten the effectiveness of the newly-developed antibiotic Synercid in humans.

In February 2002 during the last session of Congress, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Human Treatment Act of 2002, to ban the non-therapeutic use of many antibiotics, was introduced by Representatives Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Henry Waxam (D-CA) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would have amended the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.