The use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals will see additional restrictions following the FDA’s finalization of its Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) on June 2.

Killing or slowing the growth of microorganisms, antimicrobials serve a genuinely medical purpose, and are essential to treating certain diseases. However, it is possible for these drugs to be misused in food production environments, with a common example being the inclusion of antimicrobials in feed to accelerate the animal’s growth. The finalization of the VFD represents a key step to eliminating this practice and ensuring that the drugs are used for purely medical purposes. Under the new rule, the use of antimicrobials with food-producing animals has been placed under veterinary supervision, requiring veterinary authorization for their use in animal feed.

In a blog post published in conjunction with the rule’s finalization, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael R. Taylor emphasized the importance of veterinarians in the changing regulations: “veterinarians play an important role in animal and human health and their oversight, as an integral part of the VFD process, will help ensure that medically important antimicrobial drugs will be used in feed according to label directions and only when appropriate to meet specific animal health needs. That means using a product for a specifically-identified disease, at the right dose, and for the period of time stipulated on the product label.” Taylor also praised the animal drug companies that will be impacted by the finalized VFD, stating that they have been cooperative with the FDA as the changes are put into place.

Despite the great progress being made in recent years, there is still more work to be done, especially in the realm of data collection. While sales and distribution numbers of antimicrobials to farms are readily available, a current blind spot is the way in which these drugs are actually used. Being able to ascertain this information will allow the FDA to better judge how to implement further changes.

To read the FDA’s official news release on the finalization of the VFD, click here.