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Our Opinion: FDA acts to curb farm antibiotics

Cheers to the Food and Drug Administration for finally acting on antibiotic overuse in farm animals.

The FDA says the issue is a potential threat to public health, due to the growing number of antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans.

Repeated exposure to antibiotics can lead germs to become resistant to a drug so that it is no longer effective in treating a particular illness.

Cattle, hog and poultry farmers often give their animals regular doses of antibiotics to keep them healthy — and to make the animals grow faster.

The FDA will now ask pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily stop labeling drugs important for treating human infection as acceptable for that growth promotion in animals.

The drug company Zoetis, a leading manufacturer of animal antibiotics, has already agreed to change its labeling, and others are expected to follow suit.

 That means using those antibiotics to promote growth in animals would become illegal. Prescriptions would be required to use the drugs to treat sick animals.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health problem. In September the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 23,000 people a year are dying from drug-resistant infections.

The biggest risk is from germs spread in hospitals, and it’s not clear how much of the problem is related to the use of drugs in meat. Still, the FDA says this is one step toward decreasing resistance.

Some meat producers were already moving away from using antibiotics to promote growth.

McDonald’s and other companies have moved to limit the drugs in their meat, changing the way many animal producers do business, according to The Guardian newspaper.

The new guidance will give the companies three years to comply.

A number of antibiotics will still be available for farmers to use, just not those that the FDA has classified as most important for treating human infections, including penicillins and tetracyclines.

The National Pork Producers Council and a number of other farm organizations support the move.

It’s the first time since 1977 that the FDA has moved to broadly reduce antibiotic overuse in livestock

***Cheers to the U.S. House for overwhelmingly voting to support a plan to set the federal budget for the next two years, bringing the Congress one step closer to avoiding a repeat of the government shutdown in October.

The deal was hammered out by budget committee chairs Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and passed with a impressive bipartisan vote of 332-94, including 169 Republicans.

It will replace the brainless automatic sequestration cuts with a different set of spending cuts and non-tax revenue, including new fees on airline tickets. The agreement sets spending for the 2014 fiscal year at $1.012 trillion, including $63 billion of sequester relief and $85 billion of total savings. The result is about $23 billion in net deficit reduction.

And, hallelujah, with the help of the Senate, Congress can return to a more normal process for the next two years, and quit the endless, disruptive budgeting by emergency short-term measures that it has done every few months.