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US bill proposes restricted antibiotic use in livestock

By Carina Perkins , 01-Jul-2013
Last updated the 01-Jul-2013 at 11:33 GMT

Bill proposes ban on using antibiotics in feed as growth promotor
Bill proposes ban on using antibiotics in feed as growth promotor

A US senator has introduced a bill that would ban the use of antibiotics used for human medicine as a growth-promoter in US livestock production.

The Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit use of human antibiotics in feed and water of healthy farm animals. Drug companies and farmers would have to demonstrate that any such antibiotics were being used to treat clinically diagnosable diseases in livestock, rather than to fatten animals.

The bill does not put any restrictions on antibiotics that are not used in human medicine, or any restrictions on antibiotic use for sick animals.

“Antibiotics are the closest thing to a ‘silver bullet’ in human medicine, given their ability to wipe out a wide variety of bacterial infections, but we are in danger of losing this weapon in the fight against infectious diseases,” said Feinstein.

“When antibiotics are fed in low doses to animals, only the strongest, most resistant bacteria are left behind to reproduce. By the time these resistant pathogens make their way from the animals into our communities, the infections can be costly to treat or untreatable all together.”

She added that tens of thousands of people were dying in the US each year as the result of antibiotic-resistant infections. “We must preserve the efficacy of these life-saving drugs by carefully restricting their overuse in our agriculture products.”

The bill has been co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins, Jack Reed, Maria Cantwell, Kirsten Gillibrand and Barbara Boxer, and has been backed by a group of 375 public, consumer and environmental health groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

Michael Blackwell, an HSVMA Leadership Council member and former deputy director for the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said: “We commend Senator Feinstein and the co-sponsors of this important legislation for working to rein in the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture. We cannot afford to continue the reckless practices that jeopardise the viability of these precious tools for human and animal health.”

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