MEAT TRADE DAILY  January 27, 2010

Is feeding antibiotics to food animals contributing to the increase in resistant bacterial infections of humans?

It’s a question that has been floating precariously between the livestock agricultural industry and the medical community for years, with plenty of speculation but no definitive answers.

But a piece of legislation introduced to Congress this past summer — timed, whether intentionally or not, with talks of health care reform and, to a lesser extent, the H1N1 influenza pandemic and humane animal treatment — has suddenly pushed this issue to the forefront of public discussion, and what was once an occasionally heated debate has now turned into a full-blown fight between the people who feed us and the people who treat our illnesses.

The “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment” Act (PAMTA) of 2009, H.R. 1549 and its companion bill S. 619, would restrict the types of antibiotics used with animals intended for the food chain to those that demonstrate no harm to human health due to resistance development caused by nontherapeutic uses. These nontherapeutic uses refer to the feeding of antibiotics to the whole herd as a preventative measure, rather than treating illnesses of specific animals as needed; nontherapeutic antibiotic use may also be referred to as “antibiotics as growth promoters.” The antibiotics in question would be those that are also used to prevent or treat human infections, which would include seven classes of antibiotic: penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptogramins, animoglycosides, and sulfonamides.

Not surprisingly, this bill is pitting food producer against food user in a contentious fight for control over the American food supply. READ MORE