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Legislation to Ban Inappropriate Use of Antibiotics in Livestock

The proposal by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin seeks to ban nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics that lead to the increased prevalence of antibiotic-resistant super bacteria.

Patch file photo
Patch file photo

Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) has introduced AB 1437, to help combat the further spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria or superbugs.

“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.”

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now commonly found in meat from farm animals that are fed low doses of antibiotics to enhance growth or to prevent, rather than treat disease. In fact, the majority of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used, not for human consumption, but in the production of meat.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended limitations on the use of antibiotics in livestock, such as cattle, pigs, and chickens due to risks posed to humans as early as 1972, but has yet to make more than a symbolic, voluntary effort to address the issue. In 2010, The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., stated, “there is strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.”

Avinash Kar of the Natural Resources Defense Council says, “Assemblymember Mullin’s bill follows the science and takes important steps to protect public health and preserve the effectiveness of essential human medicines. It will stop the risky practice of adding low doses of antibiotics to the feed and water of animals that are not sick.”

Numerous studies in North America and Europe have convincingly demonstrated that the use of antibiotics in animals results in resistant bacteria in food animals, that these resistant bacteria are present in the food supply and transmitted to humans, and, as a result, more and more humans are experiencing adverse health circumstances.

A CDC report released in September 2013 found that every year more than two million people in the United States contract infections that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result.

Mullin’s legislation, inspired by stalled federal legislation by Senators Feinstein, Boxer and others, will ban the “nontherapeutic” use of antibiotics in livestock in California.  It will also require the collection of information to track progress.

Bill Allayaud, California Director of Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group, states “The FDA has been dragging its feet on this issue for years while the evidence mounted so we applaud Assemblymember Mullin’s initiative as a prudent and reasonable measure to protect public health.” 

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