U.S. House bill calls for ban on non-therapeutic uses of antimicrobials for livestock

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U.S. House bill calls for ban on non-therapeutic uses of antimicrobials for livestock

Legislation says antibiotic resistance signals need for tighter controls
Jul 15, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Washington -- With the backing of the Obama administration, a new measure introduced in the U.S. House seeks to ban some uses of antibiotics for food animals because they are considered too important for human health.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-New York, sites several findings to support the proposed regulations, including those from a 2001 federal interagency task force that say “antibiotic resistance is a growing menace to all people and poses a serious threat to public health; and the task force cautioned that if current trends continue, treatments for common infections will become increasingly limited and expensive, and, in some cases, nonexistent; antibiotic resistance, resulting in a reduced number of effective antibiotics, may significantly impair the ability of the United States to respond to terrorist attacks involving bacterial infections or a large influx of hospitalized patients.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees.

Joshua Sharfstein, MD, a principal deputy commissioner with the FDA, testified before the House Rules Committee on Monday. He told Congress the agency supports phasing out growth promotion/feed efficiency uses of antimicrobials in animals. The agency also wants to give veterinarians more control over uses of antibiotics on the farm.

“FDA recommends that any proposed legislation facilitate the timely removal of non-judicious uses of antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals,” Sharfstein wrote in submitted testimony. “At the same time, FDA believes that legislation should permit the judicious use of antimicrobials in animals for prevention and control as discussed above.”

No veterinarians were asked to testify at this hearing.

Nonetheless, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) House of Delegates did take up the issue at its annual meeting in Seattle last week. The body voted to form a task force to take a look at the issue and have a report no later than next year’s annual conference.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture all have supported enactment of legislation to phase out non-therapeutic uses of antimicrobials in farm animals, according to the proposed bill.