WASHINGTON, DC—Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, issued the following statement in response the release of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production report on public health aspects of antimicrobial use in food animals.
“The Pew Commission report makes clear that strict controls are needed to prevent the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture that could lead to antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. The evidence-based recommendations strongly support pending legislation in Congress to require full assessment of the risks of antibiotic use in animals, and withdrawal of approval for any drug that contributes to such resistance.”
THE PRESERVATION OF ANTIBIOTICS FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT ACT OF 2007
The widespread use of antibiotics beginning in the 1940’s provided – for the first time in history– effective treatments for infectious diseases. These miracle drugs have saved countless lives, but they are losing their effectiveness. Antibiotics that once had the power to cure dangerous infections are now often useless, because microbes have become resistant to all but the newest and most expensive drugs – and some “superbugs” are impervious to any weapons in the medical arsenal. Resistance to antibiotics takes a heavy toll on patients across the nation. The World Health Organization estimates that 14,000 Americans die every year from drug-resistant infections. This means that one American dies from a resistant infection every 38 minutes.
It seems scarcely believable that these precious medications could be fed by the ton to chickens and pigs – but that’s exactly what’s happening in farms all over America. Over 20 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to farm animals every year. That’s more than is used in all of medicine. These precious drugs aren’t even used to treat sick animals. They are used to fatten pigs and speed the growth of chickens. The result of this rampant overuse is clear: meat contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria sits on supermarket shelves all over America. Every family is potentially at risk. The most vulnerable among us – children, elderly, persons with HIV/AIDS – are particularly endangered by resistant infections.
At a time when the nation is relying on antibiotics and other medications to protect our homeland’s security from the grave threat of bioterrorism, we can no longer squander these precious weapons in the fight against disease by feeding them indiscriminately to livestock.
Provisions of the Legislation