California Congressman Henry Waxman, a Democrat serving as Ranking Member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, on Tuesday announced he’s introducing legislation that would improve the data that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration collects on antibiotics used in animal agriculture, a practice that is increasingly under the microscope.
Waxman announced his bill – the “Delivering Antibiotic Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act” – in Santa Monica with a handful of chefs, Dr. Brad Spelberg of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Jean Halloran of Consumers Union.
“We need reliable information about the use of antibiotics in agricultural operations,” said Rep. Waxman. “The more we learn, the graver the threat becomes from overuse of antibiotics by industrial-scale farms. We need this information so scientists and Congress can stop the spread of drug-resistant infections from farm animals to humans.”
Waxman’s proposal would require drug makers to report more comprehensive information to FDA regarding how their drugs are used on farms. Recent estimates have indicated that the vast majority of antibiotics sold in the United States are given to food animals. Many of those antibiotics are important to human medicine and there is broad scientific consensus that overusing these drugs promotes antibiotic resistance, which is a growing public health threat.
Currently, drug makers only report their total sales, but don’t have to distinguish which species the drugs are intended for or indicate what portion were used exclusively for food animals. The legislation would for the first time require feed mills, where many farmers are able to buy antimicrobial drugs in bulk, to report data to FDA. According to Waxman’s office, “The bill will require feed mills to submit data to FDA on the types, purposes, and quantities of antibiotics being given to animals through feed.”
According to a breakdown of the legislation provided by Consumers Union, which is strongly supporting the proposal, the bill would only require reporting for drugs given to food-producing animals – excluding pets and horses – and would only apply to antibiotics that are considered important for human medicine. Perhaps most importantly, the law would require feed mills to report on what the antibiotics are used for, whether it be growth promotion or disease prevention, control or treatment.
Over the summer, FDA said it was considering adding similar reporting to the requirements under the Animal Drug User Fee Amendments of 2008. In a Federal Register notice, the agency noted that “collecting data on antimicrobial drugs used in food-producing animals will assist FDA in tracking antimicrobial use trends and examining how such trends may relate to antimicrobial resistance.”
The congressman’s effort follows his colleague Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who has repeatedly introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), a bill that has more than 100 cosponsors in the House, but has not gained the traction needed to advance in Congress. The legislation would phase in a ban on the use of medically important antibiotics on healthy food-producing animals, while containing to allow their use on the treatment of sick animals.
Meanwhile, antibiotic resistant pathogens remain a problem for the meat and poultry products that Americans consume every day. For the most recent report from the federal government on antibiotic resistant pathogens on food products, see: New Data on Antimicrobial Resistance a Mixed Bag.© Food Safety News