House Dems warn of food safety ‘catastrophe’

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Slaughter has long pushed for legislation to limit the amount of antibiotics given to animals in food production.

Ranchers and farmers who have long fed medicine to their animals argue that there is thin evidence to support significant restrictions for animals. The increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistant germs, they say, is due to multiple factors, including increased use of drugs in humans.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned the public about the outbreak, which has led to 278 illnesses in 18 states across the country. 

More troubling for the lawmakers, they said, was the fact that about 40 percent of the people who became sick were hospitalized, nearly twice the normal rate. That’s an indication that the bacteria are mutating to become harder to fight.

“It is much more important and it is getting hard and harder and edging toward impossible to control,” Slaughter said.

The warning about the outbreak comes as more than two-thirds of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been furloughed due to the government shutdown. Some staffers at the agency have since been called back to work to deal with the crisis.

“Because we’re in the midst of this outbreak, we need to reopen the government,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

With mostly Republican support, the House has passed a number of piecemeal bills to fund individual parts of the government, including the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for most food safety.

Democrats have opposed those efforts, and want a single bill to fund the entire government.