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Walmart, McDonald’s among food firms calling for full funding of antibiotic resistance programs
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By Joan Murphy
Published: March 17, 2016 05:35 PM

In an unusual move, food companies, such as Walmart, McDonald’s and Tysons Food, are asking Congress to find money to fund the government’s antibiotic resistance programs on the farm before the FY 2017 budget request is reviewed by the full spending committees.

In a letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committees, 10 companies and advocacy groups say Congress needs to fund the FDA and the USDA portions of the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB) in the FY 2017 budget, with a particular eye on funding on-farm surveillance of antibiotic use.

“Recent reports that highly mobile resistance genes are emerging to ‘last resort’ antibiotics like colistin raise serious concerns over the future availability of these vital drugs. Combating this threat and avoiding a world without effective antibiotics will require increased and sustained federal investments in biomedical research, public health infrastructure and surveillance,” the food industry and advocacy groups wrote.

High-profile retailers and food processors signed onto the letter: Walmart, Costco, McDonald’s USA, Tyson Food, Cargill, Hormel Foods, Applegate, and Bon Appetit Management Company. Tysons and McDonald’s have announced initiatives in recent months to cut antibiotic use in chicken. The Infectious Disease Society of America and the Pew Charitable Trusts also joined in calls for full funding.

President Obama is requesting $42 million to support FDA’s efforts to phase out production uses of medically important antibiotics through label changes by December 2016 and implement the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule.

“Importantly, FDA is seeking to transfer certain funds to support its collaboration with USDA to better understand how policy changes like the VFD will affect antibiotic usage and resistance trends, with a particular focus on data quality and effectively combining data sources to take full advantage of data that may already be captured through other channels,” the letter said.

On the USDA side, the administration is requesting $61 million, including a $10 million boost to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, to fund research on antibiotic resistance and to measure antibiotic use in animal agriculture.

“We encourage you to provide funding in FY 2017 for USDA’s contribution to the CARB initiative, with a particular focus on the surveillance partnership between FDA and the USDA APHIS,” the letter said.

“USDA has historically worked in close partnership with growers and producers throughout the food supply chain, and its decades of experience at gathering and protecting user and farm survey data will enable the agency to support efforts to better understand and evaluate antibiotic use and prioritize interventions, while providing value to producers through better animal management practices,” the letter continued. “With additional funding, this enhanced data will lead to more effective and targeted interventions for antibiotic stewardship and surveillance which will help both the producers and consumers.”

“We strongly urge you to support the antimicrobial resistance requests in both the FDA and USDA budgets,” the letter concluded.



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