WASHINGTON — The U.S. Government Accountability Office has called on the federal government to establish specific guidelines and to increase collection of information on the use of medically important drugs in food animals.
The GAO noted that, according to the World Health Organization, “antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health.”
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause at least 2 million human illnesses in the U.S. each year, “and there is strong evidence that some resistance in bacteria is caused by antibiotic use in food animals (cattle, poultry and swine),” the GAO stated.
The GAO report acknowledged that while the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has increased veterinary oversight of antibiotics and USDA has made improvements in collecting data on antibiotic use in food animals, “oversight gaps still exist.”
The GAO recommends that HHS and USDA:
- Develop a process to establish appropriate durations of use on labels of all medically important antibodies used in food animals.
- Establish steps to increase veterinary oversight of medically important antibiotics administered in routes other than feed and water, such as injections and tablets.
- Develop performance measures and targets for actions to manage the use of antibiotics such as revising the veterinary feed directive and developing guidance documents on judicious use.
- Develop performance measures and targets for collecting farm-specific data on antibiotic use in food animals.
- Develop performance measures and targets for collecting farm-specific data on antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food animals.
- Develop a framework for deciding when on-farm investigations are warranted during outbreaks.