Bills Aim To Limit Antibiotic Use in Livestock To Protect Public Health
Two California lawmakers have introduced bills that would restrict the use of antibiotics in livestock, citing scientific evidence that the overuse of the drugs in animals can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could affect public health, the Sacramento Bee reports.
CDC estimates that drug-resistant bacteria affects more than two million U.S. residents per year, killing at least 23,000.
Last year, 400 California residents were sickened and at least 134 were hospitalized after an antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak spread from Foster Farms, a chicken processing facility in the state.
In December 2013, FDA issued voluntary guidance that calls for pharmaceutical companies to change how they label drugs and for farmers to stop using antibiotics to promote livestock growth.
Details of Proposed Legislation
State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) has introduced a bill (SB 835) that would make the FDA guidelines mandatory. Hill said FDA did not go "far enough" in its voluntary requirements.
In addition, Assembly member Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) introduced a bill (AB 1437) that would:
- Ban antibiotics that cause weight gain in livestock; and
- Heavily restrict access to preventive antibiotics unless there is documented evidence of a sick animal infecting other animals.
Mullin said, "I'm concerned that, essentially, we're not getting at the core problem and would still have a high volume of antibiotics in the food supply" if preventive use is not restricted.
He added that his bill is in response to the "clea[r] public health concern" of drug-resistant bacteria and noted that the government "need[s] to take a bold step now."
CDC epidemiologist Tom Chiller said the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria "is occurring across the food chain, really from farm to fork, and we know humans can become sick from those bacteria."
However, Assembly member Frank Bigelow (R-O'Neals) said Hill and Mullin should wait for additional FDA regulations before advancing legislation. He said, "We already have an agency, the FDA [that] has the oversight powers, and we need to let them use those powers."
Noelle Cremers of the California Farm Bureau Federation said Mullin's desire to restrict preventive access to antibiotics for animals would delay treatment.
Dave Daley, second vice president of the California Cattlemen's Association, agreed with Cremers, adding, "Frankly, most cattlemen don't want to see indiscriminate use of antibiotics, either ... [but] we need the flexibility to be able to use them when we need them" (White, Sacramento Bee, 1/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.