Public health researchers have estimated that about 70 percent of antibiotics produced annually in the United States are used on healthy animals to help them grow or increase their resistance to disease. The agriculture and drug industries say keeping animals healthy benefits the public, but others are worried that overuse of antibiotics risks creating drug-resistance bacteria.
"The safety mechanisms put in place by federal government agencies have been successful in allowing veterinarians and farmers to use antibiotics to keep animals healthy while protecting public health," says the Animal Health Institute. "Studies indicate that the presence of foodborne bacteria increases when the use of antibiotics that help suppress animal diseases decreases."
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) has for several years been leading efforts in Congress to ban the use of seven classes of antibiotics critical for human health on healthy animals. Four senators — Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) — introduced companion legislation in June.