Dems push for animal antibiotic limits

Fourteen House Democrats are pushing the Obama administration to swiftly finalize new regulations to prevent the emergence of drug-resistant “superbugs.”

The legislators told the White House in a letter on Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should quickly finalize regulations limiting the amount of antibiotics that can be given to farm animals in order to prevent the germs from growing immune to pharmaceuticals.

“We must put a regulatory framework in place that encourages the industry to take bold, important steps to reduce the overuse of antibiotics in livestock that is raised for consumption,” they wrote.

The FDA is currently working on regulations for a voluntary program for farmers and ranchers to limit the use of antibiotics in their animals. The program would also require veterans oversee antibiotic sales.

A draft version of the guidance was issued in April, 2012, but has not yet been finalized.

Lawmakers say the program should be mandatory, not voluntary, and that proposed monitoring requirements are too lax.

Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) led the effort on the White House letter, and were joined by a dozen other House Democrats.

Some legislators have long been concerned that farmers' tendency to over-feed low doses of antibiotics to animals is causing a public health problem, since foodborne illnesses can grow resistant to the drugs and then be harder to treat when they transfer to humans.

About 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock and poultry, often to increase animals’ size and protect them from illnesses, according to the food safety advocates.

“This poses a very serious threat to public health that grows with every additional unnecessary antibiotic dose,” the lawmakers wrote.

Slaughter is the lead sponsor of a bill that would prevent eight types of antibiotics from being used for routine purposes on the farm. 

This year, an outbreak of salmonella sickened 389 people across 23 states according to the Centers for Disease Control. Twice the normal rate of people exposed to the bacteria were hospitalized, causing some to worry that the strand of bacteria may have become resistant to some drugs.