EDGERTON, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota farmers said they're prepared for new federal regulations that will require farmers to get a veterinarian's approval before giving antibiotics to their farm animals.
The new rules will be the broadest restrictions ever handed down on feeding healthy animals antibiotics, Minnesota Public Radio reported. An estimated 40 percent of farm-raised hogs are routinely fed antibiotics, nationally, whether they are sick or not.
Federal and other health officials said unbridled use of antibiotics in animal feed is a serious threat to human health.
Annually an estimated 23,000 Americans die from drug resistant bacterial infections. Widespread use of the antibiotics in livestock feed is one reason bacteria have evolved and become immune to the medicines.
Livestock producers said they've anticipated the Jan. 1 change for years and have been pulling back in response to changing consumer attitudes.
Seth Spronk, a farmer near Edgerton, said he's already doing much of what the new rules require. He said he stopped using antibiotics for growth a couple years ago.
Spronk said he doesn't think the change will lead to more disease in his herds if he's vigilant about his animals' health.
The new policy doesn't completely ban the use of antibiotics, but it does prohibit their use simply to spur growth, said William Flynn, deputy director for science policy in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine. The new policy would also require veterinary doctors to sign off on their use as well, added Flynn.
He said the goal is to "target that use to only those situations where you really need to use it, to try to slow down that resistance development."
If farmers fail to comply after being told to change their policies then the FDA can choose form a series of escalating penalties, Flynn said.