Farmers have been loading up their animals with antibiotics for years now in order to help them grow beefy and profitable, a practice that public health advocates have long complained about. (Think "superbugs" and the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, for example.) Today, the FDA took its first action to curb the practice, reports USA Today. It is asking drug companies to voluntarily change their labels to make it illegal for farmers to use the drugs solely to boost growth. Already, two of the biggest such companies, Zoetis and Elanco, say they will comply. Also, farmers will now need a veterinarian's permission to administer the drugs.
All of which should make public health advocates thrilled? Not exactly. Critics say farmers can keep using the drugs and get around the law by saying they're doing so to prevent illness, not boost growth, reports the New York Times. And the Washington Post quotes Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York, a microbiologist, as saying the rules fall "woefully short of what is needed to prevent a public health crisis." More forgiving is the director of the Pew Charitable Trust's program for health and industrial farming, who calls it a "promising start, especially after decades of inaction." Drug companies have 90 days to say whether they will comply, then three years to put the changes into effect.