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Legistlation to Restrict Antibiotic Use Introduced - Again

18 March 2013

US - Congresswoman Louise Slaughter has introduced new legislation designed to stop the overuse of antibiotics on the farm - a practice she says is accelerating the growth of antibiotic-resistance disease.

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) is being introduced just two weeks after Dr Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control, warned that "our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections."

"Since 1977, when the FDA acknowledged the threat of antibiotic-resistant disease and called for a reduction in the use of antibiotics in animals, we have been waiting for meaningful action to protect public health," said Congresswoman Slaughter.

"Instead, we've gotten delays and half measures, and as a result, even common illnesses like strep throat could soon prove fatal. I've introduced this legislation because Congress must act immediately to protect the public health."

Currently, 80 per cent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for agricultural use. Most often, these antibiotics are distributed at sub-therapeutic levels to healthy animals as a way to compensate for crowded and unsanitary living conditions or to promote growth. Any effort to stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria must address the overuse of antibiotics in food-animals.

Slaughter has introduced PAMTA four times since 2007.

This year, the legislation is updated to reflect the severity of the growing crisis. According the recently-released 2011 NARMS Retail Meat Survey, antibiotic resistance among Cephalosporins found on chicken and turkey has increased by 23.5 per cent and 14.1 per cent respectively.

As a result, Slaughter has explicitly named Cephalosporins as an 8th class of antibiotics that would be prohibited from non-therapeutic use on animals (previous versions of the legislation explicitly named seven classes.)

The new text also clarifies the term "non-therapeutic use" to ensure that any use of medically important antibiotics outside of treatment of a sick animal is not permitted.

PAMTA is supported by 450 organizations, including public health organizations, scientists, the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and small farmers across the United States.

"To stop the spread of superbugs, we need Congress to pass this bill to curb the overuse of antibiotics in food-producing animals," said Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, which published the report "Meat On Drugs" in 2012.

"The declining effectiveness of antibiotics has become a national health crisis. One of the major causes of this problem is the overuse of antibiotics on healthy food animals. In a national survey we took last year, 86 percent of consumers said meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket. Our organisation urges Congress to pass this bill without delay, and we commend Rep. Slaughter for her leadership on this issue."

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