(CNN) — For decades farmers have used antibiotics to improve food consumption rates and enhance the growth of otherwise healthy animals. The Food and Drug Administration wants farmers and animal producers to phase out such uses, concerned that they are undermining the fight against illness in humans.
On Wednesday the FDA asked the livestock industry to voluntarily limit the use of medicines for treating, controlling and preventing specific diseases. It also asked drug manufacturers to make changes so that the antibiotics can only be prescribed by a veterinarian.
At issue is the ability to produce safe, inexpensive meat products versus protecting the human population from dangerous bacteria that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
Critics say the voluntary program doesn’t go far enough. And some animal producers in rural areas are concerned they might not have access to veterinarians to order the drugs.
Producers will have three years to phase in the guidance and the FDA says it will monitor compliance.