06/17/2010 - Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Monday urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand efforts to gather data on antibiotic use in agriculture and take steps to reduce usage.
"We believe that the USDA has the opportunity and resources to take additional steps to reduce inappropriate usage of antibiotics on farms," reads the letter. "The lack of data regarding agricultural usage of antibiotics makes it impossible to assess whether or not current usage is either prudent or responsible."
The letter asks the agency to leverage existing monitoring systems to help address the "information deficit" for antibiotic usage. "In addition to improving monitoring opportunities, the USDA can help educate farmers about animal husbandry techniques that reduce antibiotic use," said Feinstein and Slaughter, who both serve as the primary sponsors of legislation that would ban the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed.
"It's asking the USDA to unite in the fight to save antibiotics," said Laura Rogers, project manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts' Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. Rogers believes there could be better interagency coordination to monitor overall usage, explaining that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) coordinate with USDA in NARMS, but there is still no agency focused on overall use on the farm.
"No one is required to monitor how, when, and for what purpose these drugs are used," said Rogers. "You can walk into a feed store and buy a bag of feed with tetracylcine in it. Who's keeping track of that? No one."
Read the full article, Legislators Ask USDA to Up Antibiotics Monitoring, on the Food Safety News' Web site.