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'Food: Keep the Faith'

February 06, 1986

Your editorial (Jan. 19), "Food: Keep the Faith" is incorrect when it repeats the House Government Operations subcommittee's assertion that 90% of the animal drugs being sold have not met government standards for safety and effectiveness. On the contrary, about 1,500 drugs--representing fully 90% of the total U.S. market--have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration after rigorous safety testing. Of these 1,500 drugs, only around 700 are used in livestock. According to FDA, the "unapproved" products mentioned by the subcommittee include vitamins, minerals, liniments and other compounds that involve no known risk to humans. As a result, meat, milk and eggs in the United States today are by far the world's safest.

The evidence for this fact is impressive. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, less than 1% of the animals it inspects for chemical residues exceed legal limits. To assure that animal drugs are administered correctly, major manufacturers, working through the Animal Health Institute, sponsor a yearly "proper drug use campaign" and distribute regular public service ads to the nation's farm magazines underscoring critical safety messages.

Whatever its shortcomings, the existing system has worked well to ensure human safety. If the House subcommittee's report serves to focus national attention on this difficult task, then it will have served a commendable and useful purpose. But if it merely serves to feed baseless doubts, then we must indeed question what we are being asked to swallow.

FRED H. HOLT

Alexandria, Va.

Holt is president of the Animal Health Institute.

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