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Antibiotics sales for use in U.S. farm animals dropped in 2016 -FDA

By Theopolis Waters

CHICAGO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The sale and distribution of
antibiotics approved for use in food-producing animals in the
United States decreased by 10 percent from 2015 to 2016, a U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report said on Thursday.

It was the first decline in year-to-year sales since the FDA
began collecting the data in 2009, according to food and
consumer health groups.

For years scientists have warned that the regular use of
antibiotics to promote growth and prevent illness in healthy
farm animals fuels dangerous, antibiotic-resistant "superbug"
infections in people.

Major U.S. food companies including McDonald's and
Tyson Foods have stepped up efforts to curtail, and in
some cases eliminate, antibiotics in their products.

"Actions speak louder than words, and the most action we've
seen on antibiotics has come from food companies," said Matthew
Wellington, Antibiotics Program Director of public interest
campaigning group U.S. PIRG. "We're cheering this good news."

Last month, the World Health Organization urged farmers to
completely stop using antibiotics to enhance growth and prevent
disease in healthy animals.

An estimated 70 percent of the kinds of antibiotics that are
also used to fight human infections and in surgery are sold in
the United States for use in meat production.

In 2016, sales and distribution of those medically important
antibiotics for food production fell 14 percent, the FDA said.

Medically important antimicrobials accounted for 60 percent
of the domestic sales of all antimicrobials approved for use in
farm animals in 2016, the agency said.

The FDA's data show chicken accounting for 6 percent of
medically important antibiotic sales, with swine at 37 percent
and cattle at 43 percent.

Avinash Kar, senior attorney at environmental activist group
the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the overall decline
offers a "glimmer of hope" that the growing epidemic of
drug-resistant infections can be beaten.

While Kar attributed the progress to significant changes
undertaken by the chicken industry, he said the pork and beef
sectors lag behind.

Tyson Foods, the nation's leading meat producer, this year
became the world's largest producer of no-antibiotic-ever
chicken, the company said in an e-mail to Reuters on Thursday.

Tyson said it was working with independent farmers to reduce
human-use antibiotics from its beef and pork supply chain.
(Reporting By Theopolis Waters, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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