Rep. Louise Slaughter, (D-N.Y.), has introduced legislation to ban use in livestock and poultry of certain antibiotics. Her bill, H.R. 965, the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act,” would prohibit the use of antibiotics that prevent or control diseases and improve feed efficiency and weight gain in food animals.

“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 I’m proud to reintroduce the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act,” said Slaughter.

Slaughter, ranking member of the House Rules Committee, said we must take action to limit the overuse of antibiotics in animals so these life-saving drugs remain effective in the treatment of human illnesses.

Proponents of the legislation, which has been offered in previous Congresses, claim that overuse of antibiotics in food-animal production is leading to an increase in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans.

The National Pork Producers Council, which strongly opposes the bill, has pointed out that numerous risk assessments, including one conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have shown risk levels associated with antibiotic use in agriculture that are extremely low and that nationally recognized scientific studies have shown that the removal of important animal health products could actually increase food-safety risks.

The U.S. pork industry has programs – the Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the Take Care: Use Antibiotics Responsibly– that include principles and guidelines on antibiotic use that help protect animal and public health and animal well-being.

Also last week, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), at a House Appropriations Committee agriculture subcommittee hearing on the fiscal 2012 FDA budget, outlined information showing that antibiotics improve animals’ health and, in turn, improve feed efficiency. He said the proposed FDA guidance to phase out non-therapeutic animal antibiotics use will directly affect animal health and pork producers’ economic stability. Latham asked what interaction FDA has had with producers on its guidance.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told the panel that the agency’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has been actively engaged in such conversations. She said antibiotics are vital for treating animal and human diseases but that FDA doesn’t want antibiotic resistance to take away those useful tools, reports NPPC.

Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston, (R-Ga.), also questioned Hamburg about FDA’s budget request for food-safety programs.

Source: NPPC, Slaughter web site