January 16, 2018

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter Queries Companies About Antibiotic Use

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) sent a letter last week to more than 60 fast food corporations, processors, producers, and grocery chains, asking them about their policies on antibiotic use in farm animals. She would like their response by June 15, 2012.

Some of the corporations which received the letter include McDonald’s, Kraft, Cargill, Costco, Whole Foods, YUM! Brands, Burger King, and Bon Appetit Management Company.

Ms. Slaughter, who is a microbiologist, wants the companies to provide the number of beef, poultry, and pork products that are raised “without antibiotics”, with “therapeutic antibiotic doses”, and with “routine antibiotic use.” She also wants to know if the companies educate their consumers about how their meat is produced and purchased.

Her letter states, in part:

“Every year, two million Americans acquire bacterial infections during their hospital stay, and 100,000 die from them – the vast majority due to antibiotic-resistant pathogens. … This is a major public health crisis, and yet antibiotics important for human health are used regularly and with little oversight in animal agriculture.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration released data revealing that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States were sold for use in food animals not humans – most of these antibiotics were fed to healthy animals. … A National Academy of Sciences report stated that, “a decrease in the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in human medicine alone is not enough [to slow the increase in antibiotic resistance]. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate misuse in animals and agriculture as well.”

The alarming findings of a study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute, which found that one variety of antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus developed in farm animals and jumped to humans, heightens the urgency of her request. Many scientists think that antibiotic-resistant bacteria numbers are skyrocketing because antibiotics are routinely given to animals raised in crowded, unsanitary conditions to prevent disease.

In 2011, the US had the highest number of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella outbreaks, including the Hannaford ground beef outbreak in December 2011 – January 2012.

The Congresswoman introduced The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) in the House of Representatives in 2009. That legislation will mandate preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics so human beings can receive treatment for serious infections. More than 300 organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture have endorsed PAMTA.

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