July 1, 2013
Late last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock production. If enacted, the “Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2013” would direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to restrict the use of antibiotics critical to human health in livestock production unless they are used to treat clinically diagnosable diseases. The bill, co-sponsored by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jack Reed (D-RI), would also require drug companies and livestock producers to demonstrate they are using the drugs to treat sick animals.
Earlier this year, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced similar legislation in the House. H.R. 1150 has forty-seven co-sponsors, and currently remains before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. This is the fifth attempt since 2003 in both the House and Senate to pass legislation restricting the use of antibiotics in healthy animals.
Antibiotics, often the same that are used to treat human diseases, are given to livestock to encourage faster growth and prevent diseases caused by extreme crowding and other stresses on animals. In 2011, the FDA determined that 80 percent of antibacterial drugs disseminated in the US in 2010 were sold for use on livestock.
Feinstein urges prudent use of antibiotics in livestock and is concerned with the impact this has on human health. “The irresponsible use of antibiotics is dangerous, and tens of thousands of people in the U.S. die each year from antibiotic resistant infections. We must preserve the efficacy of these life-saving drugs by carefully restricting their overuse in our agriculture products.”
In 2012, a Federal court ordered the FDA to address the use of antibiotics in livestock, as a result of a lawsuit filed against the agency citing the agency’s failure to act in response to findings dating back to 1977 that feeding livestock low doses of antibiotics also used in the treatment of human disease could promote the development of antibiotic-resistance bacteria. In March, the FDA announced joint meetings with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to collect feedback on their plan for judicious use of medically important antimicrobials in medicated feed or drinking water of livestock.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition supports the efforts by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Keep Antibiotics Working, and others in their efforts to pass legislation to phase out non-therapeutic use of antibiotics as feed additives for animals.