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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

FDA Veteran Says Secrecy Around Antibiotic Use is “Laughable and Sad”

Food Integrity Campaign | September 15, 2015

When scientists confront a problem, they need to compile all the data possible to come up with a solution. But in the case of antibiotic resistance, we’ve got an information hoarder on our hands. The agriculture industry doesn’t want to share their drug use practices, and the FDA – as the information gatekeeper – won’t release the goods.

The Food Integrity Campaign’s legal team has been in an ongoing battle with FDA over the release of antibiotic use data that could be key in establishing solutions to this serious public health challenge – made only more challenging by industry secrecy. Experts vouch for the importance of this data to be publicly available, yet the agency continues to yield to Big Ag.

As FDA veteran Dr. Michael Blackwell put it: “In order to make better decisions as healthcare professionals, we need information.” He is one of several experts (in fields ranging from veterinary medicine to agriculture economics) who have stepped forward in support of our lawsuit against the FDA and its lack of transparency regarding antibiotic use.

Dr. Blackwell, who worked at FDA for 20 years (including as the Deputy Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine), says that the government over interprets the protection of privacy. “At some point we do it to the detriment of the entire nation,” he states.

Evidenced by countless attempts to silence truth-tellers via Ag Gag bills and various forms of whistleblower retaliation, Big Ag would keep everything it does private if it could. Specific drug sales data and how the drugs are distributed among animals raised for food apparently have prime spots on industry’s secret proprietary information list. Unfortunately, FDA is fearful of tripping over that line and helps keep this vital data under lock and key.

According to Dr. Blackwell, releasing antibiotic use information won’t damage the industry like it wants you to believe. Companies “pay plenty of attention to one another’s activities that I don’t see where we can possibly be doing any harm just because FDA releases a little more information. It’s laughable and sad.”

What FIC’s lawsuit aims to do and what Dr. Blackwell and others agree is actually needed is for FDA to release more details that can assist those involved in public health work to understand what is going on. Only then can we begin to adequately address the complexity that is antibiotic resistance.

“Not only do people in medicine and public health need this information,” says Dr. Blackwell. “But consumers as well, especially when we’re talking about food safety and in light of a growing threat to their wellbeing. They have a right know.”


Sarah Damian is Communications Manager for the Food Integrity Campaign.


  1. Louella Green says:

    Let’s see if we can stamp something secret then we don’t have to worry about those pesky consumers who want to know what is in their food. As long as it is secret no one can prove that we are knowingly endangering the nations health. We can’t be held accountable as long as we can get the government to protect us. It is time to return to government of the people FOR the PEOPLE and BY the PEOPLE. And no sorry Supreme Court but CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE.Report

  2. Graciela Huth says:

    My comment is simple, I have to pay for the food I buy with my hard earned money. I want the choice of knowing the contents of what I buy and its country of origin. I have suggested to Monsanto that they should give the food they produce free of charge for one year, after all if they treat us as lab rats, the least they can do is feed us as they feed their lab rats. We are not asking for shelter too, only for the food. And medical follow up if something goes wrong.Report

  3. MCG says:

    They think PETA is why people are stopping meat consumption, but they are turning more people vegan than PETA ever will. I want no part of their unethical, cronyism-filled, secretive cruel filth. Keep giving the public and animals the middle finger, BigAg! You are helping PETA immensely! GoVeg.Report

  4. Ciara Preston says:

    The routine use of antibiotics in animal feed is a huge Public Health danger…. 20,000 people die every year from antibiotic resistant illnesses.
    The FDA is supposed to protect our health. (not big Ag.) Theyre charged with “regulating” our food supply. Theyve been hijacked by the large corps.
    Same with the EPA. No longer protecting our air, water or lands.
    Im eating less & less meat.Report

  5. Graciela Huth says:

    The FDA and EPA are not properly prepared to confront the situation they face. The problem is simple, the government creates laws based in scientific studies. And the scientific world has not had enough time to catch up with the testing of so many new substances. As to antibiotics the research by Pharmaco of new antibiotics has completely stopped. In 2014 the amount of tons of antibiotics used but these factory farms in the world is incredible. But if the factory farms do not use antibiotics the rate of death among the animals could bankrupt them. They need the antibiotics because of the horrendous conditions in which they keep the animals. The solution is in the hands of the consumers. STOP BUYING THEIR PRODUCTS. Money is the only language that these corporations understand. Or force the Pharmaco not to sell antibiotics to them. But we live in a free market, we cannot force Pharmaco not to sell. And Pharmaco is formed by corporations too.
    So it is only in our hands to find a solution to this mess. We should go to the farmer markets and buy our products there. Reduce the amount of protein in our diet could be another solution. We eat too much so none of these options is going to kill us. We chose a democracy with a capitalistic system that requires a free market. We were comfortably watching tv in our homes when the corporations started their slow destruction of our economic system. We accepted that President Reagan deregulated all the agencies that overlooked our economy and banks. Then we never complained when trade deals where being signed by every President between Nixon and BushJr. Now we are suffering the consequences. We need to sit and think how we are going to fix the mess we allowed to happen by not going to vote, by not paying attention to what our Senate and Congress were doing and by blaming each other. I have not lost one election in my life but I could not help to notice how few were taking advantage of this right for which so many people gave their lives in the world. What was I supposed to do? Take a weapon and force my neighbors to take advantage of the right to vote? Life have a very simple way to teach you what is wrong and what is right. If you put your hand in the fire you get burnt. Maybe we need to learn the hard way. My suggestion do not eat meat, do not drink milk and be careful with the eggs. Buy organic. Be very careful with the vegetables, they might be organically grown but watered with contaminated water. Salmonella is happening in all the USA, but you seldom hear about it. Antibiotics is only one problem among hundreds. And do not get angry either at me or the FDA, or the EPA. It is our (the American people) fault not theirs.

    By the way, have you heard that the we are fighting in Congress for a new list of contaminants? We need an updated list. There are petitions on that matter. Food and Water has one of the versions.Report

  6. Jackie Critser says:

    I can’t believe it’s come to the point that I’m saying this: it’s time for America to have a second Revolution. We have been taking it the behind from corporate hubris for too long. No, they are not to blame for EVERY ill, our apathy as citizens has certainly helped that along, but they have certainly been shamelessly greedy, often criminally dishonest, and generally overreach their prerogatives. Eg. The Bailout, the oil and gas companies, Big Ag, Big Pharma, Monsanto and their ilk, the NFL, and now the TPP. I could go on and on, but the point is ENOUGH! We, THE People, are well within our basic rights to know what is in our food and how and where it is produced! I won’t vote for anyone who doesn’t fully advocate for that essential freedom. If you want it to be different, VOTE! It doesn’t matter how much the deep pocketed ones spend on their campaigns if we educate ourselves, excercise our vote, disseminate the truth, and UNITE!Report

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