Take Action! Senate Bill Addresses Antibiotics in Animal Feed

Urge Congress to Preserve Antibiotics for Medical Treatment

by Helena Bottemiller, Food Safety News (action links added)

A bipartisan group of senators re-introduced a bill late last week aimed at preserving the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics by limiting their use in food animal feed. In the face of the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, public health experts and activists have pushed for regulation to limit the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Recent estimates indicate around 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to food animals.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the primary sponsor of The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, otherwise known as PAMTA, reintroduced the measure to address “the rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture that creates drug-resistant bacteria, an increasing threat to human beings.”

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“The effectiveness of antibiotics for humans is jeopardized when they are used to fatten healthy pigs or speed the growth of chickens,” said Senator Feinstein.  “This is a basic food safety initiative that would phase out the misuse of these drugs so that food in supermarkets across America will not spread strains of drug-resistant bacteria.”

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), all collaborated on the legislation.

According to Feinstein’s office, in 2010, the senator was contacted by the Don family of Ramona, California.  Their son, Carlos, “a bright and athletic 12-year old,” became gravely ill with an infection while at summer camp and did not respond to antibiotics.

“It took doctors 48 hours to find a medication that could kill the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, that had infected his body.  By that time, Carlos’ lungs, kidneys, liver, intestine and heart had failed.  With only some brain activity left, Carlos lost his life because the antibiotics that hospitals have relied on for 80 years no longer worked,” said Feinstein’s office in a statement late last week.

“No parent should ever undergo the heartbreak and the tragedy that the Don’s went through,” said Feinstein.  “My bill makes important changes to the use of antibiotics and ensures that operations on a farm do not negatively impact the health and well being of families across the nation.”

The bill Feinstein is championing, PAMTA, mirrors a bill introduced by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the only microbiologist serving in Congress. The legislation:

— Phases out the non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics in livestock;
— Requires new applications for animal antibiotics to demonstrate the use of the antibiotic will not endanger public health;
— Does not restrict the use of antibiotics to treat sick livestock or to treat pets.

“PAMTA will limit the agricultural use of seven types of antibiotics that have been identified by the Food and Drug Administration as critically important in human medicine to ensure that antibiotic-resistance is not inadvertently accelerated,” according to Feinstein’s office.

The Senate version of the legislation has 17 cosponsors and the House version has 60. Slaughter has been introducing a version of the bill since 2007.

The animal agriculture industry maintains that antibiotics are a critical tool for preventing disease and promoting animal health and welfare, casting doubt on the link between the sector’s use of antibiotics and human health issues.

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Comments (4)

We believe that the USDA has the opportunity and resources to take additional steps to reduce inappropriate usage of antibiotics on farms reads the letter. The lack of data regarding agricultural usage of antibiotics makes it impossible to assess whether or not current usage is either prudent or responsible. The letter asks the agency to leverage existing monitoring systems to help address the information deficit for antibiotic usage. In addition to improving monitoring opportunities the USDA can help educate farmers about animal husbandry techniques that reduce antibiotic use said Feinstein and Slaughter who both serve as the primary sponsors of legislation that would ban the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed.In the letter Feinstein and Slaughter urge the agency to -Use the National Animal Health Monitoring Surveillance System NAHMS as a tool to monitor trends in the volume and type of antibiotics used on farms.

Wouldn’t it open up the market for people who like to eat meat but are allergic to super antibiotics?

Leave our food alone!

The underlying problem is factory farming and the drive to make more $$! Animals are too crowded to be raised in a healthy atmosphere in these factory-style chicken farms. The need for antibiotics to make the animals grow bigger and faster is driven by greed. Educating farmers is not the issue. The real problem is overcoming the need for high density farming. Can we educate the human populace to eat less meat? Can we get people to understand we all need to move closer to eating a plant-based diet to reduce the pressure on farmers to produce more meat? We were warned about antibiotic-resistant bacteria over 40 years ago and now we are reaping the rewards of using them in unscrupulous ways. People really should listen better to what scientists are telling them! The USDA cannot rescue us from this very real, very large problem. People will always be greedy, so we have to find a way to deal with reality.

To that end we can use technology to help people who contract a MRSA or other antibiotic-resistant infection. One example is a clinical testing system developed by Nanosphere that reduces the time required to find a useful antibiotic. The Verigene system can do the work of finding a killer antibiotic in a few hours compared to days and is proving to be a lifesaver in situations like the Don family had unfortunately experienced.

Keep thinking, people!

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