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Slaughter Reintroduces Bill to Curb Ag Antibiotics

Citing a new estimate–that around 80 percent of all U.S. antibiotics are given to animals–Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) reintroduced a bill this week aimed at limiting the use of certain classes of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
 
Slaughter is lobbying her colleagues to support H.R. 965, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, commonly referred to as PAMTA.
 
“Antibiotic resistance is a major public health crisis, and yet antibiotics are used regularly and with little oversight in agriculture. As a microbiologist, I cannot stress the urgency of this problem enough so today I’m proud to reintroduce the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act,” said Slaughter Wednesday. “When we go to the grocery store to pick up dinner, we should be able to buy our food without worrying that eating it will expose our family to potentially deadly bacteria that will no longer respond to our medical treatments.”

The bill comes just days after Slaughter’s office confirmed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the percentage of all U.S. antibiotics used for food animals is markedly higher than previously estimated. Rep. Slaughter called the new stat “alarming” and vowed to push forward with legislation, which has earned over 120 cosponsors.

Slaughter, the only microbiologist serving in Congress, made clear that her bill would only apply to the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics.

“Make no mistake, this bill would in no way infringe upon the use of these drugs to treat a sick animal.  It simply proscribes their non-therapeutic use,” said Slaughter. “If an animal is sick, then by all means we should make them well, but the routine use of antibiotics on healthy animals in order to promote growth is dangerous. It would be like a mother giving their son or daughter antibiotics every morning in their Cheerios. We’re wasting our precious antibiotics.”
 
Slaughter’s office is also pushing the economic angle, emphasizing antibiotic use in food animals as an international trade issue. “Nations around the world including those of the European Union, New Zealand, Thailand, and Korea all have either banned or will begin banning the use of antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion in animal feed,” her office said Wednesday. “Under World Trade Organization rules, trading partners who implement this ban will have the right to refuse imports that do not meet this standard … there may be major trade and economic implications for American farmers.”
 
According to Slaughter’s office, PAMTA enjoys a broad coalition of support from over 300 organizations in the scientific and medical community, including the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the National Academy of Sciences.
 
Congresswoman Slaughter says she will continue to put pressure on the Obama Administration to “take all steps possible to end the overuse of antibiotics.”

The Animal Health Institute’s Scientific Advisory Council for its “Healthy People. Healthy Animals. Healthy Planet.” initiative also met in Washington, D.C. this week. Antibiotic resistance and new regulations to reduce subtherapeutic use were key topics of discussion for the group.

Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) met with the group on Tuesday to discuss emerging veterinary and public health issues.

“I think we need to become better at communicating how animal health and human health are critically linked,” said Schrader, a practicing veterinarian and former organic farmer.

“I’m not in favor of the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, no one here is,” said Schrader, adding that regulators should use caution in writing the rules to avoid unintended negative human and animal health consequences.

© Food Safety News
  • http://www.vetericyn.com Tim Weeks

    How does antibiotic use lead to better growth in food animals?
    What are some good alternatives to antibiotic use?

  • Daniel

    “I think we need to become better at communicating how animal health and human health are critically linked,” said Schrader, a practicing veterinarian and former organic farmer.
    Exactly. People in the US are so disconnected from where their food comes from. Unhealthy, hormone/antibiotic injected animals lead to unhealthy people. Meat is good for you when it is raised properly and not chemically tampered with. Thank goodness people are starting to realize how important these issues are to our overall national health.

  • Gilbert Cosme

    I am very glad to hear that Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is taking initiative to help spearhead this issue, which by the way, has been an ongoing concern for quite some time. These production uses of medically important antibiotics are helping to increase antibiotic resistance and reducing our ability to combat these threats. Does anyone find it interesting that most of the feed-use antimicrobials can be purchased over-the-counter by producers from livestock supply stores??? Scientific evidence exist as far back as 1969 that this threat is real. We are now seeing how prevalent antibiotic resistance has become, even with the development of novel antibiotics. 8 years ago (2003) the U.S. implemented a new animal antimicrobial approval process but this does little for those important antimicrobials approved prior unless “stronger” evidence can prove they are not “safe” under the approved conditions. We definitely need to keep the public health in mind with decisions that are made up top and find ways to work together with animal agricultural communities, veterinarians, drug companies, public health, and any other stakeholders. Let’s not wait until it is too late and support diligent use of antibiotics in agriculture.

  • doc raymond

    Of that 80% number, the majority of the antibiotics used in feed animals are not antibiotics used in human medicine at all. And many more are antibiotics of very limited use in humans, like topical creams and tetracycline, an old med no MD would now prescribe except for maybe acne.
    Tim, to answer your question, one of the most common antibiotics used to promote growth falls in the Ionophore category, a category with no human application. Young chicks that are raised in grow out facilities amongst thousands of other chicks are given this med to prevent Coccidiomycosis, an infection that could end up contaminating the entire flock and impairing growth.

  • Nate A

    Here’s doctor Raymond again, spouting irrelevant/wrong information.
    - “Of that 80% number, the majority of the antibiotics used in feed animals are not antibiotics used in human medicine at all.”
    First of all, absolutely irrelevant, since resistance to any one antibiotic can confer resistance to the entire class to which that antibiotic belongs.
    Secondly, please provide a citation for your “majority” remark. You’ve said it before, but never provided a reference.
    - “And many more are antibiotics of very limited use in humans, like topical creams and tetracycline, an old med no MD would now prescribe except for maybe acne.”
    And your point is…? Are you saying we should just give up on the Tetracyclines entirely? Where exactly do we stop? You don’t seem to have a problem with rampant fluoroquinolone use in livestock, so I suspect your answer is “nowhere”.

  • Gilbert Cosme

    Although it may sound comforting that many of the antibiotics used in these animals are “not of human use” consider this; many of them have the same mechanism of action as the ones used in humans. So whether or not they are approved for human use, at the end of the day, they are still in the family of penicillins, sulfas, tetracyclines, cephalosporins, macrolides, flouroquinolones, you name it. Once resistance occurs from these mechanisms of action it effects the entire class. Good alternatives to antibiotics include practice of preventive immune system management through the use of vaccines, parasiticides, stress reduction and proper nutritional management. To elaborate on how antibiotics promote growth in livestock, it is still unclear as to which mechanisms are at play. However, it is thought that antibiotics alter the population of microorganisms that normally live in the animals gut. By controlling for the bacteria that may interfere with the ability to absorb nutrients, the animal (1)has less net energy loss from microbial fermentation and (2) less occurrence of subclinical diseases (undetectable sickness)that may lower appetite, decrease feed efficiency, and decrease nutrient absorption. I feel that it is fine to use antibiotics for the treatment and control of disease, but not for productive (animal growth)purposes. The profit is simply not worth the risk.

  • http://food.change.org Kristen