Ban being sought on antibiotics for animals in California

We are on the brink of a health crisis of global proportions, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns in a recent press release. In what is being called by some a “bigger crisis than AIDS,” the report from the WHO compiled data from 114 countries around the world to release one of the most extensive looks at global antibiotic resistance.

“Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security, in the report.

The report not only outlines significant resistances found in various regions of the world — such as resistance to the antibiotics used for the treatment of two common pathogens, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Africa — but pinpoints a number of things that individuals and organizations around the world can do to help.

Individuals are encouraged to only use antibiotics when they have been prescribed them and to complete the full prescription, even if they are feeling better. Individuals should also never share antibiotics with others or use leftover prescriptions.

The problem is not confined to just the human population — antibiotics used in livestock are a substantial portion of the issue as well.

It is not uncommon to give animals antibiotics in order to help them grow faster, to improve their health and to increase production, and while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instituted their plan in December 2013 to phase out animal antibiotic use, for some, the change is not coming fast enough.

The California State Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture is now considering a bill, introduced in January 2014, which would require that meat and poultry sold in the state to be free of antibiotics. The bill would grant exceptions for livestock requiring treatment for illness, and would also allow the use of antimicrobials not used on humans.

“The FDA’s recent voluntary regulations are not enough to stop the inappropriate use of antibiotics in livestock and leave the public’s health at risk,” said Kevin Mullin, the assemblyman who proposed the bill, in an article for SFGate.

While some agree with Mullin, saying that the use of antibiotics for “subtherapeutic use” is “crazy,” still others say that Mullin’s plan is too severe.

“Sensible measures are already being undertaken to ensure the safe and judicious use of medically important antimicrobials for livestock,” said California’s Cattlemen’s Association in a letter to the agriculture committee. The association does support similar legislation in front of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which would also regulate antibiotic use in livestock.

According to SFGate, “the industry would rather that regulation come from the federal government.”

The problem is large and complicated, compounded by the fact that the development and approval of new antimicrobial drugs has dropped severely in recent decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Various organizations and legislations are working to fight the problem — including Mullin’s bill. If it passes the agriculture committee, it will then be heard in appropriations before being voted on by the Assembly and the Senate.

“The buck has to stop with the livestock industry,” Mullin said.

UPDATE 05/14/14: A new study from the University of Manchester has added on to WHO’s warnings of antibiotic resistance of global proportions. The study looks at very small colonies of bacteria that can easily become antibiotic resistant, causing doctors to worry about the rapidity of mutation, and what it means for the human population.

UPDATE 05/28/14: The proposed legislation was withdrawn in early May. Advocates of the bill cite insufficient votes in order to get the bill passed. The bill was withdrawn on the same day it was to be presented to the state senate.

Comments are closed.