On Jan. 6, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “published an order prohibiting the extra-label use of cephalosporin antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals.”

We do not know about others, but we certainly were not expecting any additional action on the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals in the near future.

But we were wrong; only this time the action was the result of a lawsuit and not an action by the FDA.

Not only that, the action resulted not from a trial but rather a summary judgment by U.S. Magistrate Judge, Theodore Katz of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

As Judge Katz writes, in the case of Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., et al. (NRDC) v United States Food and Drug Administration, et al. “the parties do not dispute the essential facts” (all quotes in this article are taken from the judge’s Memorandum Opinion and Order filed March 22, 2012 and available at http://nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=162).

Both the NRDC and the FDA filed for a summary judgment and the court’s decision turned primarily on matters of grammar and prior practice. Those interested in those issues are urged to consult the judge’s order, pages 19-54.

In this column, we focus our attention on the subject matter of the lawsuit and the action of the FDA required by the Court’s decision.

As Judge Katz writes, “For over 30 years, the FDA has taken the position that the widespread use of certain antibiotics in livestock for purposes other than disease treatment poses a threat to health.