Did you know that each year more antibiotics are fed to food-animals in North Carolina than are given to all Americans? Thanks to this kind of misuse, antibiotic-resistant diseases now kill more Americans than HIV/AIDS.
On March 14, 2013, Louise re-introduced H.R. 1150 "The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2013" (PAMTA), which is designed to end the routine use of antibiotics on healthy animals and curb the growing threat of superbugs.
PAMTA would preserve the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics by phasing out the use of these drugs in healthy food-producing animals, while allowing their use for treatment of sick animals. The legislation also requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to apply the same tough standards to new applications for approval of animal antibiotics.
Two years ago, Louise confirmed with the FDA an alarming statistic: 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are used not on humans but on food-animals, most of which are perfectly healthy.
This kind of habitual use of antibiotics has been conclusively linked to the growing risk of antimicrobial-resistant infections in humans. A National Academy of Sciences report stated that, "a decrease in antimicrobial use in human medicine alone will have little effect on the current situation. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse in animals and agriculture as well."
When our limited supply of antibiotics is used indiscriminately and without care, there are public health consequences. It is time to put a stop to big agribusinesses doling out pharmaceuticals to healthy animals just because it is better for their bottom line. Antibiotic use in food-animals must be limited to prevent the inadvertent creation of superbugs that are too powerful for our own medicine.
In addition to introducing legislation, Louise has called upon the FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action to improve regulatory oversight, surveillance, and monitoring of food-animal production and antibiotic resistance. In 2010, the Governmental Accounting Agency (GAO) released a report that Louise requested, which found that federal agencies have made limited progress in combating the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.
On March 11, 2011, Slaughter led a letter to Secretary Sebelius at the Department of Health and Human Services to urge the formation of a national plan to combat antibiotic resistance. Since that letter was written, a national plan to combat antibiotic resistance has been issued.
Louise's work continues to raise awareness of this important issue. On December 13, 2011, she hosted a briefing in which farmers and successful businesses extolled the benefits of tapping into the growing domestic and international demand for antibiotic-free meat.
Louise was joined by an impressive panel, including Steve Ells, CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, one of the nation's fastest growing restaurant companies, Stephen McDonnell, CEO of award-winning Applegate Farms, and Paul Willis, President of Niman Ranch, a network of over 650 independent sustainable farms. To learn more about the briefing, click here.
As businesses such as Applegate Farms, Niman Ranch, the Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative, and Chipotle Mexican Grill, continue to pioneer affordable, antibiotic-free meat, Louise continues to push the federal government to address this looming public health threat.
Last year, Louise sent letters to over 60 fast food companies, producers, processors, and grocery store chains asking them to disclose their policies on antibiotic use in meat and poultry production.
The survey revelead that while a small number of firms are leading the way towards and antibiotic-free food production system, the vast majority of food producers and distributors regularly use antibiotics on perfectly healthy animals. Based upon these findings it is clear that current law fails to address the growing threat of superbugs.