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Call for Federal Action on Antibiotic Use

20 December 2011, at 10:13am

US – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter has called for swift action to end the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock production.

The move from the New York congresswoman, who is a Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee and the only microbiologist in Congress, follows an incident where 14 people across the Northeast of the US were infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella, prompting a recall of ground beef by Hannaford, a grocery chain based in Maine.

The strain, Salmonella typhimurium, is resistant to multiple antibiotics important for human health including beta-lactams, animoglycosides, and cephalosporins.

Congresswoman Slaughter is the author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), legislation that would phase out the non-therapeutic use in livestock of medically important antibiotics, including those which the outbreak strain of Salmonella typhimurium is resistant to.

She said: “When we go to the grocery store to pick up dinner, we should be able to buy our food without worrying that what we put on our plates is exposing our families to dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"How much longer is the federal government going to wait before waking up to the public health threat, looming quite literally, under our noses? We have a duty to protect the public health, and frankly the foot-dragging we are seeing on this issue here in Washington is legislative malpractice.

“If an animal is sick, it should be treated. But the routine, regular dosing of antibiotics to healthy animals is absolutely contributing to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It would be like a mother sprinkling antibiotics on their son or daughter’s Cheerios every morning to prevent them from getting sick. It’s ridiculous.

"We must act now or we will continue to see more and more cases like this as we diminish the effectiveness of life-saving medications.”