Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Wednesday introduced legislation to provide more information on the amount and use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials given to animals raised for human consumption.
The bill, "Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals Act" (H.R. 820) will require drug manufacturers to obtain and provide better information to the Food and Drug Administration on how their antimicrobial drugs are used in the food-producing animals for which they are approved. It will also alter the timing and quality of the data that FDA publicly releases.
Additionally, the DATA Act will require large-scale producers of poultry, swine, and livestock to submit data to FDA detailing the type and amount of antibiotics contained in the feed given to their animals. The act requires FDA to coordinate with USDA to improve the collection of data on the use of antimicrobial drugs in or on food producing animals.
Waxman said the bill would allow consumers to learn more about how antibiotics are used, calling antibiotic use a vital public health issue.
"Scientists will be able to better pinpoint the relationship between the routine use of antibiotics in animals and the development of dangerous resistant bugs that can harm humans," Waxman said in a press announcement. "This knowledge will inform scientists and Congress and start us down the path to sensible regulation."
Not a new issue
Both Waxman and Slaughter have sponsored past legislation to improve access to information about antibiotic use in animals – Waxman released a bill nearly identical to H.R. 820 in October, 2012. Slaughter's bill, H.R. 965, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, was introduced in March, 2011. The act calls for a phasing-out use of certain antibiotics in farm animal production.
"We are on the cusp of a monumental public health crisis in America: the end of antibiotics as a tool for fighting disease," Slaughter said.
Slaughter said 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are used not on humans, but on food-animals, a figure that has been disputed by several stakeholders in the ag and veterinary industry.
"Antibiotic-resistant bacteria now kill more Americans every year than HIV/AIDS," Slaughter continued. "We must bring more attention to this issue before one of the most important breakthroughs in medical science – the discovery of antibiotics – is rendered obsolete."
Farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, Animal Health Institute and American Veterinary Medical Association joined together last year to argue some of the issues in Rep. Slaughter's bill.
The groups said careful use of antibiotics are a key priority for the livestock industry, and urged public that policy decisions about antibiotics be based on science and risk assessment.
View the latest bill here.