News Release

Legislators, Health Professionals and Advocacy Groups Rally to Ensure Responsible Use of Antibiotics in Livestock

For Immediate Release

SACRAMENTO, CA (April 22, 2014) – Health profesionals, advocacy groups and legislators gathered in the State Capitol on Tuesday in support of AB 1437, a bill introduced by Assembly Member Kevin Mullin (CA-22) that seeks to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by limiting the use of medically important classes of antibiotics in meat and poultry production. AB 1437 would ensure that antibiotics are only given to animals when they are sick, and in rare circumstances, when there is a disease outbreak. Additionally, the bill would require meat companies to provide greater transparency about their exact antibiotic use. 

“Resistance to antibiotics is an increasingly serious problem,” said Assemblymember Mullin. “The Food and Drug Administration’s recent voluntary regulations are not enough to stop the inappropriate use of antibiotics in livestock and leave the public’s health at risk.”

Fueled by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics by humans and in animal agriculture, some bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. These “superbugs” are having a direct impact on human health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year more than two million Americans fall ill from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 die from those infections. 

“We’re calling for a solution today that the scientific community, the medical world and others have long sought: a policy that stops the practice of administering antibiotics to healthy animals,” said Garo Manjikian, Legislative Advocate for the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG).

Eighty percent of all antibiotics in the United States are sold for livestock use.  The majority of these drugs are given to animals that are not sick, either to make them grow faster or to compensate for crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions. A 2013 report by the CDC states, “much of the antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.”

"If we used the same warped logic on our day-care and nursery school attendees as those who add antibiotics to animal feed, we would be sprinkling antibiotics into children's PB&J sandwiches and milk to prevent infections and ensure better weight gain,” said Doctor John Bolton who is the former President of the Northern California Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at University of California San Francisco. “This would, of course, be quite insane."

AB 1437 requires that medically important antibiotics be used on farms only to treat sick animals, or in rare circumstances, for a disease outbreak. It will prohibit antibiotic use to speed up animal growth, for “disease prevention” when animals are not sick, or for any other regular or routine misuse. It will also ensure that antibiotic use on farms is supervised by a veterinarian familiar with the premises and the animals. Finally, the bill will require reporting of livestock antibiotic use to the state, which will provide critical data for regulators and scientists to track progress in meeting antibiotic stewardship goals, better understand antibiotic use practices and identify opportunities for reducing high risk uses.

AB 1437 is needed because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—the federal agency charged with regulating the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture—has failed to curb routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.  This year, the agency issued a voluntary plan called “Guidance 213,” asking pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily eliminate growth promotion uses of livestock antibiotics. Unfortunately, however, Guidance 213 condones routine uses of antibiotics to compensate for unhealthy animal management practices. And because many drugs are currently approved for both growth promotion and so called “disease prevention” uses, the same drugs may continue to be used in essentially the same way.

“We shouldn’t see the day when a mother can’t use antibiotics to treat her child’s strep throat because of livestock industry interests. FDA has acknowledged this health threat for nearly four decades, but has refused to take meaningful regulatory action,” said Cami Gordon, co-chair of the Los Angeles Leadership Council for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "With this bill, California will provide urgently needed leadership to keep antibiotics working for people who need them."

On April 30, AB 1437 will face its first policy committee hearing in the California Assembly Agricultural Committee, chaired by Assembly Member Susan Eggman. Support from the health community for AB 1437 includes the Infectious Disease Association of California, the American Association of Pediatrics – California, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and more than 25 medical school professors throughout California and more than 35 public interest organizations that advocate for consumers, health and the environment.

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The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy organization that takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and well-being.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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