News Channel 5 (link no  longer available)
Nashville, TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- There is growing concern about a powerful antibiotic the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve for use in treating sick cattle.

More than a dozen groups oppose the move, saying the drug’s use poses a serious health risk for humans, according to NewsChannel 5 Consumer Investigator Jennifer Kraus.

When Joyce Williams enjoys a good steak, she knows exactly what’s in it.

Williams is a cattle farmer.

“What you put into your cattle makes a difference in what you take in as a human being,” Williams said.

Williams is also a nurse and one of many in the medical community, including the American Medical Association, who are concerned about the use of a strong antibiotic called Cefquinome for treating sick cattle.

“Cefquinome is a very powerful antibiotic that’s best used as a last line of defense for serious illnesses in humans, particularly respiratory disease in children,” said Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

Hansen said overuse of Cefquinome could produce “super bugs.”

“And this is very critical because there are a number of bacteria out there that literally are resistant to all antibiotics, save one or two,” Hansen said.

The danger of antibiotic-resistant bacteria getting into the food supply is very real. When Consumer Reports tested chickens last year for campylobacter and salmonella, the leading bacteria that causes food poisoning, testers found the two bacteria on 83 percent of the chickens tested. Consumer Reports tests also showed the bacteria were often resistant to one or more antibiotics.

Even within the FDA, there’s controversy about the use of Cefquinome for sick cows.

“Last fall the FDA’s own scientific advisory panel recommended against approval for Cefquinome in cattle,” Hansen said. “This would be the first time that this class of powerful antibiotics has been approved for food-producing animals in the United States.”

The FDA said, “If there is credible scientific evidence that the use of an antibiotic in livestock poses a health threat to people, the FDA will take every possible measure to protect human health.”

Groups opposed to the use of Cefquinome in cattle vow to continue their fight.

Consumer Reports says the FDA appears to be ignoring lessons learned from the mid-90’s. That’s when the agency approved a powerful new class of antibiotics for use in chicken feed, which fights bacteria that can cause a diarrheal disease in people. It wasn’t long before doctors reported seeing antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in people hospitalized with severe diarrhea.

Eventually the FDA reversed itself and the drugs were withdrawn for use in chickens. The FDA said it has not yet decided whether to approve the use of Cefquinome in cattle.

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