California will take the next step in deliberating the banning of non-therapeutic antibiotics from the feed of cattle, pigs and poultry in the state.

According to the North County Times, California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter), wants to ensure that cattle, poultry and pigs raised in California are not routinely given antibiotics - a practice some say can lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

A Senate committee  will hear legislation on April 21 authored by Florez, that would bar livestock and poultry producers from giving feed containing antibiotics to healthy animals to promote growth and help prevent disease starting in 2015.

The bill also would bar schools from serving meat from animals that have been routinely treated with non-therapeutic antibiotics. It also would require state and local government facilities to try to buy antibiotic-free meat for their kitchens.

"We don't wake up every morning to take an antibiotic to help ensure that we don't get sick," said Florez. "There are better ways than giving every single animal an antibiotic."

Others warn that low doses of antibiotics lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria that can threaten human health. "There have been ample studies over a number of years that show that non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in food animals place humans at increased risk of infections and higher number of treatments and treatment failures," says Elisa Odabashian, director of the West Coast office of Consumers Union.

According to Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, drug-resistant bacteria can be transmitted to people through poorly cooked meat and other unsafe food preparation practices, human to human contact and animal manure.

"The medical community really stands united behind the position that there is an issue that we need to address," she said. "The folks that don't are the animal industry, and they are not experts on human health."

Representatives of agricultural groups see another side of the story and say that banning the routine use of antibiotics would force farmers and ranchers to use more drugs when their animals get sick.

"What Senator Florez is trying to do is take away tools we use to keep animals healthy," explained Noelle Cremers, director of natural resources and commodities for the California Farm Bureau Federation. "We don't see that as being a good way to provide safe food for consumers."

The California Poultry Federation, which represents processing plants and 300 to 400 poultry farms, sent Florez a letter arguing that the bill would hurt California producers economically without affecting their out-of-state competitors.

Bill Mattos, the federation's president, said his members do not use antibiotics to promote animal growth. "We do use them for disease prevention in small amounts," he said. "It has no effect on human resistance whatsoever."

Source: The PigSite.com