Keeping Our Food Safe from Animal Drugs
Besides being responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of human drugs, FDA has a similar, although less well-known, responsibility for veterinary drugs. To a great degree, this involves the safety of these drugs not only for animals but also for people, because of the widespread use of drugs in animals raised for food.
To get a better understanding of how FDA protects the public health from unsafe residues of veterinary drugs in meat, eggs, and milk, FDA Consumer editor Bill Rados interviewed Dr. Gerald Guest, acting director of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Q. Dr. Guest, both you and FDA Commissioner Frank Young have been widely quoted in the press as saying that America's food supply "is the safest in the world.' What do you base that on?
A. Let me talk a little about the responsibilities of the Center for Veterinary Medicine and what we're all about. I think then you'll understand why I believe our country's food supply is so safe. The Food and Drug Administration, through this center, is responsible for assuring that animal drugs and medicated feeds are safe and effective and that food from treated animals is safe to eat.
Prior to approval, a new animal drug must undergo extensive testing. The drug sponsor--usually that means the manufacturer--must conduct laboratory and clinical investigations that establish the safety and effectiveness of the substance. The sponsor must also demonstrate that any drug residues remaining in a food-producing animal at slaughter pose no threat to human health.
Once the drug is approved, based on all these data, a monitoring/investigating system takes over. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service obtains samples of body tissue from slaughtered animals and analyzes those samples. Their findings are sent to FDA field offices for follow-up by our field investigators. Regulatory action is taken against those responsible for drug residues above the legal limit, and those animal carcasses found to have dangerous residues are kept from the marketplace.
Taking all of these activities into account--from extensive pre-clearance requirements through rigorous surveillance, monitoring and enforcement activities--I do indeed believe that Americans have the safest food supply in the world.
Q. How much are drugs used in livestock?
A. About four out of five food animals are given drugs during their …