U.S. Rep Pushes For Farm Animal Antibiotic Legislation

Rep. Henry Waxman gains Consumer Union support for new farm animal antibiotic legislation

Published on: Oct 18, 2012

Antibiotic legislation isn't a new concept – Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., reintroduced her legislation, H.R. 965, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, in March 2011. The act calls for a phasing-out use of certain antibiotics in farm animal production.

Slaughter reiterated her concerns last month in response to the creation of the FDA Antibacterial Drug Development Task Force. Slaughter said the creation was an important step, but not enough.

"The objectives of this task force fall short of the vital public health need to prevent the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs," Slaughter said in a statement. "The overuse of antibiotics in livestock production continues to be overlooked by the FDA."

Despite the ongoing outcry for additional regulation, the American Meat Institute has maintained its position that antibiotics are used in meat animals to prevent and treat disease, ensuring animal health.

In an AMI white paper, the organization said the meat industry has a "strong record of compliance" to withdrawal periods, ensuring safe products.

"When antibiotics are used in livestock and poultry production, strict withdrawal periods must be followed before the animals are processed for foods," the paper said. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture monitors meat and poultry to ensure that in the unlikely event that antibiotic residues are present, they do not exceed the tolerance levels deemed unsafe by FDA and USDA."

Other farm organizations also responded to Rep. Slaughter's legislation this summer with a letter to the congresswoman that cited peer-reviewed studies on antibiotics in meat animals. Their letter maintained that reducing antibiotic selection pressure in animals "has no impact on human resistance levels."