November 16, 2023
US FDA to remove common veterinary drug from pork farms amid human cancer concerns
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aims to withdraw a widely used veterinary drug employed by US pork farms from the market, prompted by apprehensions that the drug, carbadox, may present a cancer risk to humans consuming pork products, CBS News reported.
This decision follows almost a decade of the FDA's ongoing investigation into safety concerns surrounding carbadox. The drug is commonly added to swine feed to combat infections and enhance their weight.
The FDA warns that pork tainted with carcinogenic residues from carbadox could find its way into foods. Despite the caution, the agency has clarified that it is "not recommending that people make changes in their food choices" while actively working to remove the drug.
In a 2016 news release, the FDA outlined potential cancer risks associated with consuming pork products containing carbadox residues over a lifetime. Concerns about carbadox's potential to cause cancer have been present since its approval in 1998, with the FDA's initial worries eased by a testing strategy focused on examining edible parts of pigs given the drug.
However, recent data suggests that the method used to measure the cancer risk is now deemed "inadequate." Surprisingly, the FDA did not expedite the removal of carbadox after its 2016 warning, lagging behind other countries like the European Union and Canada, which banned the feed ingredient in 1999 and 2006, respectively.
Advocacy groups criticised the delay in a 2022 letter to the FDA, condemning industry efforts to defer an inevitable ban. The FDA spokesperson declined to comment on the agency's timeline.
The manufacturer of carbadox, Phibro Animal Health Corporation, said the FDA's decision lacks a basis in solid science. Phibro argues that the FDA is ignoring the drug's established safety history. Pulling carbadox could result in substantial losses for the pork industry, estimated at US$5.3 billion over the next decade.
The National Pork Producers Council argues that carbadox is crucial for treating gastrointestinal disease in young swine, enhancing their health and welfare. Moreover, removing carbadox may lead veterinarians to resort to other antibiotics, potentially fostering drug-resistant germs harmful to humans.
Phibro has the option to request a hearing from the FDA. The deadline for this request is December 7, providing the company with an opportunity to further defend the use of carbadox in swine production.
In response to inquiries about potential actions, Phibro declined to comment, stating it would take appropriate action to safeguard swine producers' ability to use carbadox.
- CBS News