It's well known that our food supply is littered with undesirable ingredients: pink slime, fake honey, an overabundance of corn, GMOs -- the list goes on and on.
Overuse of antibiotics is just one of many huge concerns. Many oppose its use due to fears of antibiotic resistance in humans and the possibility of superbugs.
With the failure of this year's farm bill -- an issue few are complaining about -- Senators are working to address individual issues, like pervasive antibiotic use, on a case-by-case basis.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, is attempting to do something about it: she recently introduced a bill with bipartisan co-sponsors that would limit the use of antibiotics in healthy -- or, at least, non-diseased-- farm animals.
Joined by a bipartisan group of cosponsors -- Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif -- the bill has garnered support from the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 17 classes of antimicrobials -- which includes antibacterial antibiotics, antivirals, and antiparasitic drug -- are legally allowed for regular use in livestock production in the United States. These drugs include antibiotics that are crucial in treating human disease, such as penicillin, tetracycline, and erythromycin.
Estimates by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) claim that 70 percent of antimicrobials used in the United States are fed to farm animals, including chickens, pigs, and cattle, for non-therapeutic use.
They are most frequently added to the animal's food and water.
So why is this a problem?
"Because routinely dosing the feed of farm animals with antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance," said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society. "The practice has been condemned by the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among more than 300 organizations nationwide that have endorsed legislation to phase out this reckless practice that jeopardizes sick people and animals. Antibiotic resistant infections now kill tens of thousands of Americans every year."
These drugs are used to expedite weight gain in farm animals and prevent the spread of disease in the animals in which they are being used. In factory farming scenarios, animals frequently get sick due to cramped, stressful, and unsanitary living conditions.
In 1977 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that administering low doses of antibiotics used to treat humans to farm animals could lead to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The bill states that, "In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration was ordered by a Federal court to address the use of antibiotics in livestock, as the result of a lawsuit filed against the agency citing the agency's failure to act in response to the 1977 findings."
Feinstein and her co-sponsors hope to limit the use of antibiotics in domestic animals used for food production solely for treatment purposes.
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