Arguments Supporting the Proposed Ban, cont.
There is evidence that overuse of antibiotics in farm animals is resulting in antibiotic resistant bacteria having deleterious effects on human health. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports on a drug resistant Salmonella subtype, S. Typhimurium, that has been present in the United Kingdom since 1984. Associated with severe illness in humans, U.K. studies show the presence of these antibiotic resistant bacteria in farm animals and pets that are transmitted to humans both directly and from the consumption of poultry, beef, and pork. This bacterial strain has been found in the U.S. recently, with the threat to public health being assessed.
The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) supports the arguments that the addition of antibiotics to livestock feed and water in low doses over a prolonged period of time contributes to human health dangers. Resistant pathogens are disseminated through the food chain as well as through environmental reservoirs of water and soil. There is also a direct human pathway through farm workers and their families. The AAP report cites evidence linking resistance of two major foodborne pathogenic species, Salmonella and Campylobacter, and the Enterococcus opportunistic pathogen, to the agricultural overuse of antibiotics.
The April 2008 Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production recommends increased regulation, enforcement, and monitoring of the use of antibiotics in large-scale livestock operations, along with veterinary oversight that is not currently required. The commission cites added health care costs of $17 – $26 billion per year due to increased resistance that results in more severe and long-lasting infections that are difficult to treat as well as increased deaths.
Drug-resistant infections result in the deaths of many thousands of people every year. They are particularly deadly to the most vulnerable, including children, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and those with HIV/AIDS. According to the CDC, there are 76 million cases of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. with 5,000 deaths each year. Existing evidence has been strong enough for the CDC to conclude that the dominant source of antibiotic resistance in foodborne pathogens is the routine overuse of antibiotics in food animals.
Additionally, the World Health Organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Animal Welfare Association, the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, FDA, and FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, have as a matter of policy concluded that the continued, routine use of antibiotics in farm animals for non-therapeutic purposes is unsafe for the public’s health. They join over 350 health, environmental, and consumer organizations in the U.S. in support of the proposed PAMTA legislation.