House debates whether we should sacrifice human antibiotics for meat industry gain

Sharfstein socks one to Big Meat: In a hearing held today in the House Rules Committee, Deputy FDA Commissioner Josh Sharfstein threw the administration's weight behind a ban on feeding antibiotics meant for humans to healthy animals. The practice is common on industrial livestock operations, where low doses of the drugs are used to boost animals' growth and keep them from getting sick in unhygienic conditions. As much as 70% of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are purportedly used on healthy animals. The public health community has linked the practice to the spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

The hearing was held at the request of the House's only microbiologist rep, Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who's gathering support for H.R. 1549. That bill, known as the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), would ban the use of important human drugs on animals for "non-therapeutic" purposes. (New York Times)

For more info, see this backgrounder on how the meat industry uses antibiotics, this Q&A with MRSA and antibiotics expert Maryn McKenna, and this post on how antibiotics get in your veggies (punchline: via the manure from doped-up animals). Eddie Gehman Kohan has a great summary as well on Obama Foodorama.

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