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article imageCalifornia takes the lead in stopping antibiotic use in livestock

By Karen Graham     Oct 11, 2015 in Food
Sacramento - On Saturday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 27 that sets the strictest government standards in the U.S. for antibiotic use in livestock.
California is now the first state in the nation to require a veterinarian's prescription for the therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock. The new law also bans the use of low-dose antibiotics as a preventative measure and requires that data be collected on antibiotic use.
In his signing message to the state Senate, Governor Brown wrote, “SB 27 addresses an urgent public health problem. The science is clear that the overuse of antibiotics in livestock has contributed to the spread of antibiotic resistance and the undermining of decades of life-saving advances in medicine.
Recently, American poultry producers have shown leadership by voluntarily committing to better husbandry practices and eliminating the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics. This is an example that the rest of the livestock industry should follow.”
On June 2, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its final rule for its Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), bringing the use of antibiotics in livestock under veterinary supervision. This ruling was supposed to enhance the tepid 2012 FDA rules on antibiotic use in livestock.
But where the 2015 VFD lacks provisions that would curtail the use of antibiotics as a prophylactic to enhance growth, Senate Bill 27 goes one step further by not allowing the regular pattern of use for prophylactic purposes.
Avinash Kar, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) health program says the bill addresses a loophole in the FDA's rule. The VFD rule states: “The VFD final rule takes another important step by facilitating veterinary oversight in a way that allows for the flexibility needed to accommodate the diversity of circumstances that veterinarians encounter, while ensuring such oversight is conducted in accordance with nationally consistent principles.”
The VFD rule allowing "veterinary oversight and flexibility" to accommodate the needs of livestock producers would also make it possible to find ways around the rule. California's law closes this little loophole.
The new law will take effect on January 1, 2018, and also requires the California Department of Food and Agriculture to start a monitoring program “to gather information on medically important antimicrobial drug sales and usage, antimicrobial resistant bacteria, and livestock management practice data.”
About 70 percent of antibiotics used in humans are also used in livestock production in the United States. While the veterinary use of antibiotics is legal, the number of infections in humans from antibiotic-resistant bacteria has increased dramatically. This situation has resulted in greater scrutiny of the reasons livestock producers use antibiotics.
“This bill will instantly put California at the forefront of U.S. efforts to address the overuse of antibiotics in livestock,” Kar says. “It’s the first law in the country to actually regulate this issue.”
More about senate bill 27, antibiotics in livestock, public health problem, prophylactic uses, Veterinarians
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