Posted October 13, 2015
California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a bill that sets the strictest government standards in the United States for the use of antibiotics in livestock production, according to a Reuters article available here. Ag Web also published an article available here, U.S. News & World Report hereand Bloomberg here.
California is known for its leadership on public health and environmental issues. This move accompanies the growing concern that the overuse of these drugs is contributing to rising numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2 million people in this country are infected with drug resistant bacteria each year and that 23,000 die as a direct result.
Meat producers will only be allowed to administer the drugs with the approval of a veterinarian when animals are sick, or to prevent infections if there’s an “elevated risk.” They cannot use the drugs “in a regular pattern.” The policy is more restrictive than the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) national guidelines, which don’t restrict use for disease prevention, according to Ag Web.
Small cattle ranchers in rural areas may have a harder time getting medicine approved by a veterinarian, said Justin Oldfield, vice president of government relations at the California Cattlemen’s Association. He also rejected the notion that the bill would force producers to drastically change their practices and suggested advocates exaggerated how the use of drugs, according to Bloomberg.
“We’re not routinely feeding animals [antibiotics] all the time for disease prevention,” he said. “We care about antibiotic resistance, just like everybody else does.”
The antibiotics are different from the growth hormones used by many food producers that have drawn criticism and that some grocery stores and food chains have phased out. Companies including McDonald’s, Chipotle and Panera also have begun promoting their chicken as raised without antibiotics, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The California Veterinary Medical Association expressed concern that veterinarians might not be able to prescribe the drugs preventively to treat diseases for which there is no test available to determine which animals are carriers.
The law, which takes effect in 2018, also eliminates the availability of livestock antibiotics for over-the-counter sales.
For more information on animal welfare, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.