Slaughter pushes antibiotic agenda

Jun 21, 2013

House Rules Committee Ranking Member Louise M. Slaughter, D-NY, sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to pay special attention to the issues of antibiotic resistance at last week’s Group of Eight (G8) summit in Northern Ireland, and to consider limiting the use of antibiotics on healthy food animals.

Slaughter has authored the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which would prohibit the routine use of eight classes of antibiotics for preventative measures in healthy food animals.

“As you travel to the G8 summit this week, I ask you to pay close attention to the issues of antibiotic resistance that David Willetts, Britain’s science minister, has raised with his counterparts in the G8 countries,” Slaughter wrote in her letter.

Willetts’ concern over antibiotic resistance supports Slaughter’s theory.

“We are frittering away one of the greatest medical advancements of all time— the development of the antibiotic—by allowing its overuse on farms with otherwise healthy animals. Eighty percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in agriculture. Science has clearly demonstrated that this type of overuse of antibiotics contributes to the rise of resistant bacteria, and infections with these bacteria are costing the United States 70,000 lives each year. It is quite literally an issue of life and death,” Slaughter’s letter continued.

Slaughter has been pushing her antibiotic agenda since 1999.

Slaughter, along with Rosa L. DeLauro, D-CT, also highlighted a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that detailed more than 55 foodborne illness outbreaks since 1973, and according to the two, the report “should compel federal regulators to fulfill their duty to protect public health from the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their food.

Forty-eight of these 55 foodborne illnesses were caused by Salmonella. In 31 of these outbreaks, the bacteria were resistant to five or more antibiotics. In 2011 alone, three Salmonella outbreaks in turkey and beef sickened 168 and hospitalized 48 people.”

“How many more outbreaks will it take before the USDA and the FDA take this problem seriously?” Slaughter said. “We have evidence that the practice of overusing antibiotics in food-animals is ruining these drugs’ effectiveness, and every day that the government stands idly by, we move closer to the nightmare scenario where routine infections can no longer be cured with antibiotic treatment.”

“USDA ignores this issue at our collective peril,” said CSPI senior food safety attorney Sarah Klein. “The evidence is clear that antibiotic-resistant pathogens in food are very dangerous for consumers, and USDA could help solve the problem by making crystal clear that it won’t accept these superbugs in meat and poultry.”

Despite her push, earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed an animal drug review bill that authorizes FDA to collect fees for animal drug applications, without amendments that could have restricted any use of certain antibiotics or require reporting of onfarm uses of animal health products.

The five-year Animal Drug User Fee Act and the Animal Generic Drug User Fee Act passed, by a 390-12 vote as a single, combined bill. The bill, S 622, passed the Senate by unanimous consent earlier, on May 8. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor