As of January 4, 2012 the Federal Drug Administration has banned the “unapproved” use of cephalosporins in food animals such as cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys.  Therefore, you may want to return that thoughtful gift of Cefzil or Keflex your livestock got you for Christmas.  It was really a gift for them more than it was for you anyway.

Actually, hold off on returning the gift as the prohibition is for “extra-label” use rather than an outright ban of the antibiotics.  Specifically, the FDA proposes to ban:

– Using cephalosporins at unapproved dosages, frequencies, durations, or routes of administration;

– Using cephalosporins that are not approved for cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys; and

– Using cephalosporins to prevent disease rather than treat disease.

– Click here for full news release from FDA –

Doctors use cephalosporins to treat pneumonia, strep throat, bronchitis, skin infections and urinary tract infections.  Critics of antibiotic use in agriculture, believe that excessive non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals will lead to an increase in antibiotic resistant super-germs, including cephalosporin-resistant Salmonella.  On the other hand, groups like the Animal Health Institute (“AHI”) claim that any evidence of a relationship between antibiotic use in food animals and subsequent antibiotic resistance in human infections is suspect.  (Statement by Ron Phillips, VP of AHI; find full statement here)

Most realize the ban’s actual impact on antibiotic use in agriculture may be rather slim.  According to this FDA summary report, cephalosporins were distributed less than the other eight antimicrobial drugs approved for animals.  Furthermore, the ban allows veterinarians to prescribe cephalosporins for limited “extra-label” uses as long as the labeled dosage, frequency, duration and route of administration are followed.

While the FDA’s ban may not be as far reaching as some desire, the restrictions are a step toward antibiotic-use regulations down the road.  Therefore, let your livestock know about potential FDA regulations so they don’t spend time getting you a Christmas gift you cannot use.