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Animal Feed & Antibiotics

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Basic Information about the Veterinary Feed Directive

Historically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who regulates the use of medicine in animals, has allowed select antibiotics used in or on animal feeds to be available to producers over-the-counter and without the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian. In 1999, the Animal Drug Availability Act (ADAA) of 1996 implemented a new category of drugs called veterinary feed directive (VFD). The VFD category is a part of the FDA's overall directive to ensure the judicious use of human medically important antibiotics. Recently, the VFD category was expanded to include medically important antibiotics fed to animals and is defined in FDA Guidance Document #213. The revised VFD policy puts into place important control factors that dictate the appropriate use of feed-grade antibiotics.

In the past they have allowed antibiotics to have label claims for therapeutic (prevention, control, treatment) reasons, growth promotant and feed efficiency. As a part of judicious use strategy, the FDA has aligned with drug sponsors to voluntarily revise label claims, removing growth promotant and feed efficiency. Since these products cannot be used extra-label, and the removal of label claims will discontinue their use for non-therapeutic purposes. This action will result in some feed products being withdrawn from retail.

What is a VFD drug?

Drug classifications and methods of distribution are determined by the FDA. A VFD drug is a medically important (determined by the FDA) antibiotic that has been approved for use in or on animal feed. To use feed containing a VFD drug, a written order by a licensed veterinarian is required.

What is a VFD order?

A VFD order is a written statement issued by a licensed veterinarian that gives producers permission to use feed that contains antibiotics, as it is written by the licensed veterinarian. A requirement of the VFD policy is that a Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship (VCPR) must be in place.

All VFD orders must be kept in their original form (either written record or electronic copy) by the issuing veterinarian and a copy must be retained by the producer and feed distribution company. Both original and copies must be retained for two years.

What is a VCPR?

A veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is a working relationship between a veterinarian and a producer. The veterinarian's primary role is to advise and guide the producer (the client) in determining which medications are appropriate for their animals (the patients).

When will this take effect?

The expansion of the order went into effect on October 1, 2015, however, only a small number of antibiotics (tilmicosin, florfenicol, and avilamycin) were affected.

Are all antibiotics now considered VFD drugs?

Not all antibiotics will be considered VFD drugs. The use of Injectable antibiotics will not be affected. At this time, the FDA has only moved antibiotics that are essential to human medicine and being fed to animals, to VFD status.

According to FDA Guidance Document #213, water soluble antibiotics, which are important to human medicine now require a prescription from a veterinarian. A list of drugs transitioning from over-the-counter to prescription status can be found on the FDA's website.

What products does the VFD cover?

Medically important antibiotics, which are essential to human medicine as outlined in Guidance Document 213, are being added to the list of drugs being moved to VFD status. This includes products that contain: tetracyclines, lincosamides, macrolides, penicillin, streptogramins, aminoglycosides, aminopenicillins and sulfonamides. The FDA maintains and updates a list of VFD drugs on their website.

Where can I find a list of VFD drug distributors?

You can fill a VFD order at any mill, retailer or other establishment who is listed as a distributor with the FDA, find the list of companies on their website.


Questions? Please contact our MDARD feed expert by email at or by phone at 800-292-3939 or find more information on our "Producer," "Retailer and Mills" and "Veterinarian" pages above.