The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was asked this week by a federal judge to examine the agency’s decision to reject a citizen petition to restrict the use of antibiotics in animal feed, according to a Reuters report.  Previously in March, a federal court ordered the FDA to begin proceedings to withdraw approval for the use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed unless makers of the antibiotics can provide scientific evidence that the use of these products are safe.  The lawsuit was filed by environmental and public-health groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Union of Concerned Scientists in the Manhattan federal court.  The plaintiffs argued that using common antibiotics in livestock feed has contributed to the rapid growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both animals and humans.

Two citizen petitions were filed by the plaintiffs in 1999 and 2005 requesting FDA to begin withdrawal proceedings for all non-therapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics food producing animals.  In response, FDA rejected those two petitions citing the time and expense required to evaluate individual drug safety and to hold formal withdrawal proceedings, if necessary.

This week, however, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz said, “Denying the petitions on the grounds that it would be too time consuming and resource-intensive to evaluate each individual drug’s safety, and withdraw approval if a drug was not shown to be safe, is arbitrary and capricious.”