WASHINGTON — The Pew Charitable Trusts today applauded Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) for introducing the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act (H.R. 820) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would authorize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect and report data that would shed light on how antibiotics are being used on industrial farms.
"We know all too well that antibiotic overuse in meat and poultry production is breeding superbugs that threaten human health, but we have no information that reveals in which animals and for which purposes these drugs are administered so widely," said Laura Rogers, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts' work on human health and industrial farming. "We commend Reps. Waxman and Slaughter for introducing the DATA Act to help fill these information gaps."
"We need more and better data to bring industrial animal agriculture into the 21st century," said Stephen McDonnell, founder and CEO of Applegate, a leading producer of natural and organic meats and cheeses. "The DATA Act would enable industry, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to tailor policies that preserve beneficial antibiotic practices — namely treating sick animals and herds — and replace harmful ones with better husbandry and hygiene."
The FDA reports how many kilograms of most classes of antibiotics are sold each year for food animal production. The DATA Act would require drug companies and the FDA to report antibiotic sales and distribution data for food animals by species, intended use, and dosage form. It also would require large food animal producers to report how and why they mix antibiotics into animal food, which is particularly important since 80 percent of the antibiotics given to food animals are administered in feed, often for reasons other than treating sick animals.
While Pew commended the FDA for issuing draft guidance to limit the overuse and misuse of antibiotics last April, the agency received some criticism that these voluntary policies would not be effective enough. In response, FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor wrote in USA Today, "To those who say we are simply 'trusting' the industry, we would reply, 'Trust but verify.' It will be clear how industry responds, and we have not yielded any of our enforcement options.”
Ms. Rogers continued, "The DATA Act will give the FDA the information it needs to confirm that its policies are curbing antibiotic overuse — and to demonstrate the need for additional action if they are not."
Hundreds of scientific studies conducted over four decades demonstrate that feeding low doses of antibiotics to livestock breeds antibiotic-resistant superbugs that can infect people. The FDA, the USDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all testified before Congress that there is a definitive link between the use of antibiotics in food animal production and the crisis of antibiotic resistance in humans.
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