From the New York Times:
A federal magistrate judge on Thursday ordered the Obama administration to alert drug makers that the government may soon ban the common agricultural use of popular antibiotics in animals because the practice may encourage the proliferation of dangerous infections and imperil public health.
The order, issued by Judge Theodore H. Katz of the Southern District of New York, has the effect of restarting a process that the Food and Drug Administration began 35 years ago in hopes of preventing penicillin and tetracycline, two of the nation’s most popular antibiotics, from losing their effectiveness in humans because of their widespread use in animal feed to promote growth in livestock like chickens, pigs and cattle.
The order comes two months after the Obama administration announced restrictions on agricultural uses of cephalosporins, a critical class of antibiotics that includes drugs like Cefzil and Keflex, which are commonly used to treat pneumonia, strep throat and skin and urinary tract infections. The F.D.A. is expected to issue within days draft rules that would bar the use of penicillin and tetracycline — highly popular in agricultural settings — in animal feed to further growth, the same issue tackled by Judge Katz. A decade ago, the F.D.A. banned indiscriminate agricultural use of a powerful class of antibiotics, called fluoroquinolones, that includes the medicine Cipro. . . .
Environmental and health groups petitioned the F.D.A. in 1999 and 2005 to restart the process to ban the drugs from being overused on farms. In January, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen and the Union of Concerned Scientists filed suit against the F.D.A. On Thursday, Judge Katz ruled that these groups had won their case without need for a trial.
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