July 17, 2018

Cleveland and Pittsburgh Resolutions Against Antibiotic Use in Livestock

The cities of Cleveland and Pittsburgh have passed resolutions calling for a ban on the sub therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock. The cities of Providence, Rhode Island and Redhook, New Jersey have also approved resolutions, and Seattle may join them soon. Seattle Council member Mike O’Brien said, “antibiotic resistance is a lot like the ‘global warming’ crisis of clinical medicine. It’s a serious problem which will only worsen unless we take immediate action at all levels of government.”

AntibioticsThe use of antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention in farm animals is linked to antibiotic resistance. Some antibiotics that are medically important for human beings are used on factory farms, endangering their use. In fact, the Foster Farms chicken Salmonella outbreak that has gone on for more than a year had seven strains of pathogenic bacteria, some that were resistant to more than one antibiotic.

Food & Water Watch, which sponsored the resolutions in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, is stressing the importance of this issue. The FDA has issued voluntary guidance about antibiotic use in farm animals, which are not supported by the rule of law. And while the government claims that most of the antibiotic manufacturers that supply drugs to factory farms are going to comply with the guidance, the guidance only covers use of antibiotics for growth promotion. That only solves half of the issue. Farmers can still give animals low doses of the drugs to prevent disease.

There are some bills pending in the U.S. legislature that would address this issue. The Protection of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) and Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA) have been introduced several times over the past few years. Their sponsors are frustrated by lack of movement on this issue. Representative Louise Slaughter has introduced PAMTA to the U.S. House four times since 2007.

At the present time, the CDC estimates that 2,000,000 people contract antibiotic-resistant infections every year in the United States, and at least 23,000 people die from those infections. These numbers are going to increase unless some serious measures are taken. And it looks like that won’t happen any time soon.

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