Judge Theodore H. Katz of the Southern District of New York ordered the Obama administration to alert drug makers the government may soon ban the common agricultural use of penicillin and tetracycline in animals because the practice may encourage the proliferation of dangerous infections, The New York Times reported Friday.
Research has shown their widespread use in animal feed to promote growth in livestock like chickens, pigs and cattle is causing the antibiotics to lose their effectiveness in humans.
By the 1970s, public health officials were concerned their overuse was leading to the development of killer infections resistant to treatment, and in 1977 the FDA announced it intended to ban the use.
However, powerful House and Senate appropriations committees passed resolutions against such a ban and the agency pulled back.
Environmental and health groups had petitioned the FDA in 1999 and 2005 to restart the process of instituting a ban on the drugs' overuse on farms.
"In the intervening years, the scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown, and there is no evidence the FDA has changed its position that such uses are not shown to be safe," Katz wrote in his order.