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Rep. Slaughter Reintroduces Preservation of Antibiotics Legislation

On Tuesday, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) reintroduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would ban non-therapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics in food animal production.

“My legislation would save eight critical classes of antibiotics from being routinely fed to healthy animals and would reserve them only for sick humans and sick animals,” Slaughter said. “Right now, we are allowing the greatest medical advancement of the 20th century to be frittered away, in part because it’s cheaper for factory farms to feed these critical drugs to animals rather than clean up the deplorable conditions on the farm.”

PAMTA-sign-2015In addition to treating disease, antibiotics are used in livestock production at sub-therapeutic levels for disease prevention and growth promotion. These practices contribute to the spread of drug-resistant pathogens in both livestock and humans and threaten the effectiveness of antibiotics used to treat even common infections.

Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, has been a co-sponsor of the bill since 1999 and the main sponsor since 2007. In a press conference Tuesday announcing her reintroduction of the legislation, Slaughter praised recent decisions by fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s to stop feeding antibiotics to their animals, adding that “the government has a role, too, when more than 80 percent of the antibiotics used in this country are used on healthy farm animals.”

In a study recently published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers estimated that livestock consumed about 63,151 tons of antimicrobials in 2010 and expect the number to increase by 67 percent by 2030.

“We need this bill so that we become the leaders in the world on this issue,” said Lance Price, a professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, at the press conference. “We’re lagging behind Europe, but we need to lead the developing world because there it’s no holds barred.”

Price added that PAMTA is the “only serious leadership” he’s seen on animal antibiotics.

In the 113th Congress, PAMTA had 78 co-sponsors and was endorsed by 450 health, agriculture, environmental, food safety and nutrition, animal protection, religious, labor and consumer advocate groups.

And 50 cities across the country, including Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, have passed resolutions encouraging Congress to pass PAMTA and the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA), which Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reintroduced in Congress earlier this month.

In addition to PAMTA, Slaughter will be introducing the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency Act (DATA), which would provide better information on the amount and use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials given to animals raised for human consumption.

DATA, previously sponsored by the now-retired Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), would require drug manufacturers to obtain and provide better information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on how their antimicrobial drugs are used in food-producing animals. It would also require large-scale producers of poultry and livestock to submit data to FDA detailing the type and amount of antibiotics contained in the feed given to their animals.

Along with many other advocates of antibiotic preservation, Slaughter has been critical of FDA’s Guidance for Industry #213, which asks animal pharmaceutical companies to remove growth-promotion claims from medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals. She is concerned that the drugs will simply be re-listed with new “disease-prevention” labels but still be used in the same way.

“If we want to prevent a nightmarish post-antibiotic future, citizens of this country need to speak up and demand that their leaders enact enforceable, verifiable limits on the use of antibiotics on the farm,” Slaughter said.

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