December 25, 2013

California Law To Stop Non-Medical Antibiotics For Farm Animals
Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) has announced he will introduce legislationlegally requiring recently released FDA voluntary guidelines to phase out the non-medical use of antibiotics in farm animals in California in order to combat “growing resistance to these vital drugs. The bill will be introduced when the Legislature re-convenes on Jan. 6.

Under the legislation, farmers’ and ranchers’ use of antibiotics to make animals grow bigger, a practice since the 1950s, would be illegal in California. The bill would require food producers to obtain a veterinarian’s prescription to use the drugs to prevent disease in their animals.

“With veterinary oversight, animal pro-dicers will still be able to use medically important antibiotics for legitimate disease treatment purposes,” according to the press release.

Drug manufacturers would have to change their labels to prevent farmers from buying antibiotics over the counter and using them for non-medical purposes. Again, the press release states, “Pharmaceutical and livestock producers would be subject to penalties if they do not comply.”

At hand is the issue of disease-resistance from repeated exposure to antibiotics to drugs such as penicillin and tetracycline that are used to treat common bacterial infections in humans. Medically important antibiotics used in food-producing animals are the same ones used in humans. Farms consume at least 70 percent of the nation’s antibiotic supply, and the FDA has approved at least 685 different drugs for use in animals.

This year, an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella linked to three chicken plants in California sickened nearly 400 people; 40 percent of those infected were hospitalized. Each year antibiotic-resistant infections result in at least $20 billion in direct health care costs and at least $35 billion in lost productivity.

"Antibiotic use in food producing animals for non-medical reasons is a serious public health issue,” Hill said. “My legislation is intended to ensure that medically important antibiotics remain effective in treating bacterial infections in animals and humans.”

Sources: Office of Senator Jerry Hill, Western United Dairymen, 12/20/13