With no notice other than a holiday-eve posting in the Federal Register, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reneged on its long-stated intention to compel large-scale agriculture to curb overuse of agricultural antibiotics, which it had planned to do by reversing its approval for putting penicillin and tetracyclines in feed.

How long-stated? The FDA first announced its intention to withdraw those approvals in 1977.

For 34 years, the FDA has been contending that administering small doses of antibiotics to healthy animals is an inappropriate use of increasingly scarce drugs — a position in which it is supported by organizations as mainstream as the American Medical Association. With this withdrawal, it backs away from the actions it took to support that assertion — which may indicate there will be no further government action on the issue until after the 2012 election.

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