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Avinash Kar’s Blog

Write your Senator, demand more information on antibiotic use in livestock

Avinash Kar

Posted March 18, 2013 in Health and the Environment

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My colleague, Mae Wu, put out a blog last week, asking people to call their senators and ensure that we get FDA to disclose basic information about the way antibiotics are used in the livestock industry. We continue to need help to make this happen. More on the story below, but here’s what we need people’s help with.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (also known as the HELP Committee) is considering a bill where this issue is at stake, and the senators on the committee need to hear from the public. If you live in one of the following states, please go to our action page and write to your senator urging him or her to support a provision requiring FDA to disclose information to the public about how antibiotics are used in livestock. Many of these senators have been champions on public health issues in the past and need to hear from us that they need to support this provision. The senators to contact are:

  • Tom Harkin (Iowa)
  • Barbara Mikulski (Maryland)
  • Patty Murray (Washington)
  • Bernie Sanders (Vermont)
  • Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
  • Kay Hagan (North Carolina)
  • Al Franken (Minnesota)
  • Michael Bennet (Colorado)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island)
  • Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin)
  • Chris Murphy (Connecticut)
  • Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)
  • Mark Kirk (Illinois)
  • Lamar Alexander (Tennessee)
  • Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

For more details, read Mae’s excellent blog, but here’s the quick and dirty summary. Antibiotic misuse and overuse in livestock is contributing to a public health crisis of antibiotic resistance, which is putting the effectiveness of some our most important medicines at risk. The CDC has said that there is “strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.” Antibiotic resistant infections can last longer, lead to more hospitalizations, the use of medicines with greater side effects, and even death if treatments fail.

FDA already collects information on antibiotic use in livestock that it does not disclose to the public—about how the antibiotics sold are administered (i.e. in food or water or by injection) and marketed  (i.e. over-the-counter, prescription, etc.) and how important they are for human medicine. We need this information about how antibiotics are being used at factory farms to better target solutions and evaluate the success of efforts to curtail misuse.

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Dianne Feinstein (CA) have taken up the cause and jointly offered a provision amending the bill that the Committee is considering to require FDA to disclose this information, but they have encountered opposition from the Committee Chairman, Sen. Harkin (IA), and others. This is such a small and modest ask that it’s stunning that the Committee is not adopting the provision. We need to write the members of the Committee to let them know this matters to us and our families and demand better information about antibiotic use in livestock.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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