Antibiotics are back in the hot seat as four senators urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to step up its animal antibiotics tracking.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren D-Mass., recently sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. The senators specifically requested improved data collection on animal antibiotic use and resistance.

“We applaud your agency’s recent step to issue improved, more transparent reports on annual food animal antibiotic drug sales and distribution data,” the senators wrote in the letter, accessible here. “However, we are disappointed to learn that your agency has decided to delay proposing a rule that would further enhance data collected on this topic until next year, when the Office of Management and Budget estimated the rule would be released in 2014.”

The senators also have requested the FDA “develop a plan to estimate how antibiotic sales and distribution relates to on-farm antibiotic use practices.”

However, this plan may not necessarily paint an accurate picture of on-farm antibiotic usage.

At last week’s National Institute of Animal Agriculture’s Antibiotic Symposium in Atlanta, Ga., veterinarians, physicians and researchers from across the continent looked at the complex issues surrounding antibiotic resistance in both animals and humans alike.  Many of the speakers agreed that there is a need for on-farm use data, but there also must be meaningful metrics to fully assess the impacts of different antibiotic use practices.

Responsible antibiotic usage is a priority of both the Pork Quality Assurance program and the Beef Quality Assurance program. Earlier this year, the animal-health industry commits to FDA Guidance for Industry 209 and 213, phasing out end of growth and performance uses of medically important antimicrobials. Click here to read, “Preparing for GFI 213, VFD.”

Antibiotic resistance isn’t strictly an animal agriculture issue. In October, a study found antibiotic-resistant infections cost $20 billion annually. Read more here.