Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., announced this week that he will introduce legislation to increase information on the amount and use of antibiotics in animals raised for human consumption. He is calling it the “Delivering Antibiotic Transparency in Animals Act” or DATA Act.

It specifically would require drug manufacturers to report to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the type, purpose and quantities of antimicrobials used on farms. The emphasis is on feed-grade products and would, for the first time, require feed mills to submit product data to FDA as well.

“We need reliable information about the use of antibiotics in agricultural operations,” says Waxman, who is for re-election Nov. 6 in California’s newly created 33rd Congressional District, which includes Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Agoura Hills, Venice, Mar Vista, and the South Bay. “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, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, made the announcement in Santa Monica, Calif., and was joined by Chefs Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill Restaurant, and Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza, as well as Dr. Brad Spellberg of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and Jean Halloran of Consumers Union.

The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, was quick to come out with a comment. Laura Rogers, the Pew’s project director, said about the DATA Act, "This newly proposed legislation would make available more detailed, useful information on antibiotics. For example, it would require drug companies and FDA to report antibiotic sales and distribution data for poultry and livestock by species, the intended use and dosage form. “

She added, “it is vital that we have antibiotics available to treat sick people as well as sick farm animals. Unfortunately, these drugs are misused every day just to make animals grow faster and to compensate for unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. These practices are breeding drug-resistant 'superbugs' that can cause infection, illness and even death.”

In April, FDA issued a draft guidance-- Guidance 209— which calls for a voluntary end to antibiotics used for growth promotion or nutritional efficiency purposes in food-animal production. (See “Big Changes Ahead for Antibiotics”.) It also called for more veterinary oversight in the form of Veterinary Feed Directives or VFDs.  FDA also indicated that it would give animal-health companies three years to remove subtherapeutic applications from product labels and move products to a VFD.