NEW YORK — Food companies, labor unions and food service providers have rallied to urge Congress to pass a new food-trade licensing law that would help fight the scourge of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
The food industry and trade groups on Monday called for the Food and Drug Administration to approve the Food Labeling and Labeling Improvement Act of 2017, which they say would make it easier for manufacturers to sell antibiotics, and for consumers to buy those antibiotics, without having to obtain a food safety certification.
“The world is facing a global pandemic of antibiotic resistance, and we need to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, reliable and safe antibiotics,” said Jennifer Regan, executive director of the American Beverage Association.
“It’s critical that Congress pass this important legislation to protect the safety of American food.”
The law would make the Food & Drug Administration’s Food Labels & Labeling Standards Act (FLSMA) the nation’s first food labeling law to require the use of generic antibiotics for food, and would require companies to post warning labels and labelling for antibiotics on foods.
The FDA has already made it a requirement for manufacturers of food products to label products containing antibiotics, but those labels are not required for food products that do not contain antibiotics.
The Food Labelling Improvement Act would also make it a federal crime for a food company to make a false statement on a label that falsely indicates that a drug or a food is antibiotic-free, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
It would also prohibit manufacturers from using labels that falsely indicate that a food contains antibiotics without disclosing that the label is misleading.
The bill also would prohibit food manufacturers from marketing products that contain antibiotics that are not used for a health benefit.
The law is being touted as a way to combat the epidemic of antibiotic resistant superbugs, and it has bipartisan support in Congress.
The measure is supported by the White House and several advocacy groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the U: Food Industry Association.
The legislation also would require the FDA to issue a new labeling law for antibiotics in the United States by Jan. 1, 2020, but the FDA is already moving ahead with the 2017 Food Label Standards Act.
The FDA recently finalized its new antibiotics labeling guidelines, and those guidelines were adopted by the Food Industry Regulatory Commission, a federal regulatory body that reviews the drug labeling for drugs.
The new FDA guidelines require that manufacturers of antibiotics include the drug’s name, the generic name of the drug, the manufacturer’s manufacturing facility, the name of its brand, and a statement that the drug is “generally recognized as safe for human consumption.”
The labels must also include a warning that the product contains a drug with a new antibiotic resistance risk.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, which has oversight over the Food Standards Act, is currently working with FDA on the new guidance.
“We need to continue to invest in research, innovation, and testing to ensure our antibiotics are safe and effective for the thousands of Americans who depend on them for everyday life,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
“Our work is far from over.”
The FDA will issue a final rule on the 2017 law by April 20, 2018.