Press Release

Pew Applauds Introduction of Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act

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Washington, DC - Nearly one year after the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released its landmark recommendations on how America should reform the way food animals are raised, U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter today introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009 (PAMTA). The bill amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to withdraw the use of seven classes of antibiotics vitally important to human health from use on factory farms unless animals or herds are sick with disease.

"Human antibiotics are routinely misused on factory farms to promote faster animal growth and compensate for crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions," said Robert Martin, a senior officer with the Pew Environment Group. "Medical experts agree that this practice directly contributes to a dramatic rise in antibiotic-resistant infections in people. We must reduce the use of antibiotics today to help preserve their effectiveness tomorrow."

According to estimates by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 50 million pounds of antibiotics have been used in industrial farm animal production since PAMTA was last introduced two years ago. Also during those two years, nearly one billion pounds of untreated livestock manure has been introduced into the environment. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, pathogens and pharmaceutically-active compounds in manure can be transmitted to other animals and humans through the foods we eat and water we drink. In addition, production of fresh fruit and vegetables using manure or irrigating with wastewater could be mechanisms of pathogen transfer. While human antibiotics are being used in enormous quantities on the farm, they are becoming less effective in people. At the same time, few new antibiotics are entering the market to take the place of ineffective ones. The Food and Drug Administration last approved a new antibiotic for humans in 2003.

The seven classes of drugs that would be revoked from routine use include penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptogramins, aminoglycosides, sulfonamides and any other drug used to treat bacterial illness in people.

"Doctors almost always warn their patients never to take antibiotics if they are not actually sick," said Laura Rogers, Project Director of the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. "Yet this is what is happening on industrial farms today—healthy animals are fed low doses of antibiotics over long periods of time, creating the ideal breeding ground for bacteria to become resistant. Our food production practices need to change in order to keep us all safe."