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GAO: Gaps still exist in food animal antibiotic reporting

This article was on the Feedstuffs website (Jacqui Fatka).

GAO says gaps it found in farm-specific data on antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in 2011 still remain.

Since 2011, the U.S. Department of Health &Human Services has increased veterinary oversight of antibiotics and, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has made several improvements in collecting data on antibiotic use in food animals and resistance in bacteria.

For example, HHS's Food &Drug Administration issued a regulation and guidance for industry recommending changes to drug labels. However, oversight gaps still exist, according to a new Government AccountabilityOffice (GAO) report, "Antibiotic Resistance: More Information Needed to Oversee Use of Medically Important Drugs in Food Animals."

To promote the judicious use of antibiotics in food animals, FDA increased veterinary oversight of medically important antibiotics in feed and water through a voluntary guidance to industry and revising the Veterinary Feed Directive regulation. As a result, as of January 2017, medically important antimicrobials, including antibiotics,

in the feed and water of food animals may be used only under the supervision of licensed veterinarians, according to FDA officials.

In 2014, FDA enhanced its annual summary report on antimicrobials sold or distributed for use in food animals.

Since 2011, USDA agencies have collected additional antibiotic use data through national surveys of producers and engaged in efforts to leverage industry data. In particular, the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), through the National Animal Health Monitoring System, collected additional antibiotic use data through its national survey of producers of dairy cattle (2011 and 2014), beef cattle (2011), laying hens (2013) and swine (2012). Using these surveys, APHIS generally collects information on the amount and duration of antibiotic use, the reason for use, the antibiotic name and the route of administration, such as feed, water or injection, among other things.

GAO found gaps in oversight and identified several actions needed to prevent the continued use of antibiotics for general prevention of disease. The changes include altering medication labels, increasing data collection and improving collaboration among USDA, FDA and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention during investigations of foodborne illnesses.

GAO noted that gaps it found in farm-specific data on antibiotic use and resistance in 2011 still remain. "GAO continues to believe HHS and USDA need to implement a joint on-farm data collection plan as previously recommended. In addition, FDA and USDA's (APHIS) do not have metrics to assess the impact of actions they have taken, which is inconsistent with leading practices for performance measurement," the report noted.

The report was requested by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Cal.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) and Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.). Following the release of the GAO report, they wrote to HHS and USDA urging increased collaboration and oversight to reduce the inappropriate use of medically important antibiotics in food animal production.

The members are calling on FDA, USDA and CDC to coordinate the collection of on-farm data regarding how antibiotics are used and investigate outbreaks of foodborne illnesses caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

The letter asked acting deputy secretary of agriculture Michael Young on what the agencies under his oversight do to collect data on antibiotic use on the farm and in large-scale operations. Specifically, the letter asked when APHIS "will complete the development of performance measures and targets for collecting on-farm data" and when USDA and CDC will complete "a framework for when on-farm investigations are needed."

The letter also asked what actions USDA is taking to ensure that practicing veterinarians and veterinary students are receiving the appropriate training to meet the aims established in FDA's "Guidance for Industry #209" and further specified in "Guidance for Industry #213."

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