The House Rules Committee on Monday held a hearing on limiting the use of antibiotics in livestock. Deputy Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein testified at the hearing that restrictions on livestock use would reduce the opportunity for bacteria to develop resistance to drugs used by humans.
Sharfstein said that FDA believes that the use of antibiotics to promote weight gain or feed efficiency should be eliminated. He also stated that veterinarian supervision should be necessary for the use of medication for prevention or control of diseases, which would mean no sales over-the-counter of antibiotics to farmers or ranchers.
Identical bills that would phase out the use of seven classes of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock were introduced in both the House and Senate in March. Monday's hearing was the first action by either chamber on the issue.
The bill is supported by the American Medical Association and other groups but is drawing fire from agricultural organizations.
"There are no good studies that show that some of these antibiotic-resistant diseases - and it seems like we're seeing more of them - have any link to antibiotic use in food-animal production," said Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council.
NPPC has also questioned the fact that while this bill would restrict livestock producers' ability to use certain antibiotics, not one representative from the livestock industry was asked to testify. Nor were any veterinarians, who would oversee antibiotic use on farms, asked to testify.