Two leading Democrat members of Congress, Henry Waxman (CA) and Louise Slaughter (NY), introduced legislation this week aimed at providing more detail on the amount and use of antimicrobial drugs given to animals raised for food.
The legislation, dubbed the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act, says it will help public health officials and scientists “better understand and interpret trends and variations in antimicrobial resistance” and identify interventions for preventing and controlling drug resistance.
“The widespread use of antibiotics in animals is a vital public health issue,” said Rep. Waxman on Tuesday. “We need to learn more about how these drugs are being used. With this information, scientists will be able to better pinpoint the relationship between the routine use of antibiotics in animals and the development of dangerous resistant bugs that can harm humans.”
Waxman said that more information would allow scientists and Congress to start down the “path to sensible regulation.”
“We are on the cusp of a monumental public health crisis in America: the end of antibiotics as a tool for fighting disease,” said Rep. Slaughter, the only microbiologist serving in Congress.
The bill would require drug manufacturers to obtain and provide better information to the U.S.Food and Drug Administration on how their antimicrobial drugs are used in each class of food animals, data that FDA currently does not have, but has asked for.
The DATA Act would require large-scale producers of poultry, swine, and other livestock to submit detailed annual reports to the agency on type and amount of antibiotics contained in the feed given to their animals.
The bill would mandate that FDA report breakdowns on the percentage of antimicrobials sold for growth promotion and feed efficiency, disease prevention, disease control and disease treatment. On top of that, the agency would have to provide a breakdown on drugs sold or distributed in each state and the quantity of drugs sold for each class of animals. Currently, FDA only reports on the total number of kilograms sold for use in animals for several classes of antibiotics.
Ron Phillips, the Vice President for Legislative and Public Affairs for the Animal Health Institute, which represents the veterinary pharmaceutical industry, said the bill would have no benefit.
“The Food and Drug Administration solicited comments from stakeholders last year on better ways to collect and report information on antibiotic use,” said Phillips, in a statement to Food Safety News. “AHI told the agency that further data collection efforts should start with a scientific justification for that data and be used in a way that helps farmers and veterinarians continue to improve the use of antibiotics in food producing animals. This bill fails that test and places burdens on FDA and on all food producers without any scientific or public health benefit.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts, which advocates for stronger regulations to combat antibiotic-resistance, disagrees and applauded the legislation.
“We know all too well that antibiotic overuse in meat and poultry production is breeding superbugs that threaten human health, but we have no information that reveals in which animals and for which purposes these drugs are administered so widely,” said Laura Rogers, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ work on human health and industrial farming.
Rogers argues the legislation would help give the FDA the data it needs to confirm whether or not its new voluntary policy to curb antibiotic overuse is working. If it’s not working, the data could help the agency “demonstrate the need for additional action,” she said.
The proposal would also require that FDA issue a final guidance on the judicious use of antibiotics in food animal production and asks the Government Accountability Office, a government oversight agency, to conduct a study to evaluate FDA’s voluntary approach as well as look at the agency’s data collection.© Food Safety News