Garo Manjikian and Corie Radka of CALPIRG speak at a press conference opposing SB835 in Berkeley on Wednesday. CALPIRG is among a dozen organizations calling on the California legislature to take stronger action regulating the use of antibiotics in livestock. (Courtesy: CALPIRG)
By Joe Rubin
Amid growing concern of the use of antibiotics in livestock, California’s Assembly will consider on Monday a bill to limit their use. But a coalition of a dozen health and consumer advocacy groups — the very groups that often back such measures — are pressing lawmakers to vote it down. The groups say the bill is not aggressive enough and want California to take a more forceful role in the way antibiotics are regulated in meat production.
The bill, SB 835, sponsored by San Mateo Senator Jerry Hill, is an endorsement of last year’s Food and Drug Administration policy shift. The FDA has asked drug companies to voluntarily stop distributing anti-microbial drugs used for the purpose of fattening animals. Around 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S are used in the livestock industry. Drug companies say they are complying with the new guidelines.
But critics say the Hill bill, like the FDA guidelines, leaves a glaring loophole. Many of the antibiotics used for growth promotion are also used for disease prevention, making for more of a label change than a fundamental shift, critics say. Indeed drugs like tylosin, which have been used for decades as a growth-promoting feed additive for pigs and cows, remain readily available and in use. Continue reading
Stanford University Infectious Disease Specialist David Relman with Assemblyman Kevin Mullin looking on (Jeff Walters/Assembly Democratic Caucus).
By Joe Rubin
A new bill in the California Legislature could give California the distinction of going where the federal government hasn’t — more strictly regulating the way that livestock are given antibiotics.
But freshman state Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), who is introducing state Assembly Bill 1437, says getting it through the agricultural committee is a bit of long shot.
More than 70 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to animals, often to healthy livestock. Until very recently drug companies marketed the growth-promoting benefits of antibiotics. And many meat producers, keen for additional profits and assured by pharmaceutical companies that the practice was safe for people and animals, would routinely add antibiotics to feed.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration, after years of debate on the issue, asked drug companies to voluntarily stop marketing the growth-promoting benefits of antibiotics out of concerns for public health. The companies are largely complying. But critics like the Natural Resources Defense Council and New York Times food writer Mark Bittman have criticized the FDA’s approach as lax and unlikely to lead to any real change.
More than two dozen American health organizations — including the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics for starters — are banding together to fight the overuse of antibiotics. In new research, Extending the Cure, a DC-based policy group aiming to reduce inappropriate use or antibiotics, found prescribing rates dropped 17 percent nationally — and 24 percent here in California — from 1999 to 2010.
For a refresher: remember that antibiotics fight bacterial infections; they are useless the common cold or influenza — those are caused by viruses.
Those lower prescribing rates make a difference, not just in avoiding medicines that won’t help you — or could even hurt you. All drugs have side effects, after all. Reduced use of antibiotics means reduced creation of superbugs. “For many pathogens,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of Extending the Cure, “resistance rates are lower in California than other states.” Continue reading