The Food and Drug Administration is “committed to a vibrant” agriculture industry and wise use of antibiotics in livestock and people, according to newly appointed FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D.

Califf shared his thoughts in an interview with AgriTalk in Washington, D.C., where he outlined where his agency overlaps with agriculture and specifically the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). 

“We’re dealing with this very difficult, complex global problem of antimicrobial resistance,” explained Califf, who was trained as a cardiologist and most recently served as FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco before transitioning into his new role at FDA last month.

Hospitals have seen more incidences of “superbugs” that are difficult to treat, Califf said, but because there are so many components to consider, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what areas of antibiotic use are responsible.

He suggested more research needs to be done on antibiotic use in livestock production. “Much like we’ve done on the human side, we want to develop better and better evidence of where (antibiotic use) is useful and where it is not" in animal agriculture, he said.

As a doctor,  he saw firsthand how antibiotics could be unintentionally overused in human patients, Califf said, and he thinks the situation is probably similar in animal agriculture.

“We’ve learned we can create a problem with antimicrobial resistance if we use antibiotics beyond the point they are really necessary,” Califf adds. “The point of this whole thing is that holds true from livestock all the way to the intensive care unit.”

He also acknowledged that antibiotics are a necessary tool in agriculture for treating sick animals. Califf also said that veterinarians will be an important part of implementing the VFD. 

Listen to Califf's full comments here: