The FDA on Friday released its latest report on antimicrobial sales for use in food-producing animals, reflecting 2013 sales compared with the previous year and longer-term trends. The report predictably generates criticism of animal agriculture from activist groups, some of which is based on misinterpretation of the data.

In the report, FDA acknowledges that the sales data do not include information on how products actually are used, such as in what species or for prevention, control or treatment of disease. Some antimicrobial products, for example, are labeled for use in companion animals such as dogs and cats, along with food animals, but information on distribution of those uses is not reported to FDA or broken out in the report. Because of all these variations, FDA notes in the report, assumptions cannot be made about actual product use.

Key findings in the report include:

·         Domestic sales and distribution of antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals increased by 17 percent from 2009 through 2013, and increased by 1 percent from 2012 through 2013.

·         Domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals increased by 20 percent from 2009 through 2013, and increased by 3 percent from 2012 through 2013.

·         The percentage of domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals that have an approved indication for production use decreased from 72 percent to 68 percent from 2009 through 2012, but then increased from 68 percent to 72 percent from 2012 through 2013. This number does not represent sales attributable to products used solely for production indications because most of these products are also approved for therapeutic indications.

·         The percentage of domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals that are sold over-the-counter (OTC) did not appreciably change from 2009 through 2013, including from 2012 through 2013, remaining relatively steady at 98 percent.

It is important to note that the FDA in 2013 published a draft rule that will place virtually all feed-grade antibiotics under the veterinary feed directive (VFD). FDA has indicated they will release a final VFD rule this spring, for full implementation by 2016, ending OTC sales of those products. Also, FDA guidance 213 will lead to removal of production or performance label claims from medically important antibiotics, limiting their use to prevention, control or treatment of disease.

Read the summary report from the FDA.