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.