Proposed Senate bill addresses livestock antibiotics use

By:  Bovine Veterinarian - Brett Wessler
Source: Bovine Veterinarian

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill last week taking aim at antibiotic use in the livestock industry with concerns of developing pathogens resistant to human medicine. Feinstein claims the antibiotics fed to livestock are making creating more resistant pathogens that can be costly to treat, or even untreatable. In a release on Feinstein’s website, the legislation, Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2013, proposes the following:

Directs the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the use of antibiotics in ways that accelerate antibiotic resistance;

Requires drug companies and producers to demonstrate they are using antibiotics to treat clinically diagnosable diseases—not just to fatten their livestock;

Applies restrictions to only the limited number of antibiotics that are critical to human health. Any drug not used in human medicine is left untouched by this legislation;

Preserves the ability of farmers to use all available antibiotics to treat sick animals. If a veterinarian identifies a sick animal, or a herd of animals that are likely to become sick, there are no restrictions on what drugs can be used.

Earlier this week, the NCBA educated more than 70 congressional staff members on antibiotic use in the livestock industry. Dr. Mike Apley, DVM, PhD, explained how antibiotics are used judiciously in the beef industry to prevent the spread of diseases and addressed myths about antibiotics.

Apley told the group about the approval process animal antibiotics receive to become FDA approved. He added a large percentage of the antibiotics used to treat and prevent illness in animals are ionophores, compounds not used in human medicine.

“Producers use antibiotics under the guidance of a veterinarian, and extensive regulations govern the use of animal health drugs. Many factors go into ensuring that veterinarians, farmers and ranchers have access to effective antibiotics to maintain animal health,” said Apley. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and outright misrepresentations about why and how antibiotics are used in the cattle industry. The truth is, cattle producers and veterinarians utilize many tools including vaccines, herd health management, genetics and animal nutrition to continue producing the world’s safest beef.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Feinstein’s bill is co-sponsored by Reps Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and has received support from other groups including the American Medical Association.