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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2009
2:54 PM

CONTACT: Food & Water Watch

Elanor Starmer or Erin Greenfield (202) 683-2500

Food & Water Watch Supports California Legislation Banning Overuse of Antibiotics in Livestock

Consumer Group Warns of Devastating Human Health Effects from Common Agricultural Practice at Senate Food and Agriculture Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON - March 17 - Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy organization, today testified before California’s Senate Food and Agriculture Committee in support of Senator Dean Florez’s legislation to ban “nontherapeutic” uses of antibiotics in livestock production by 2015. The abuse of antibiotics in livestock production to boost the animals’ growth and keep illness from spreading has led to an increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause longer and more severe foodborne illness infections, according to research compiled by Food & Water Watch. The organization is endorsing Senator Florez’s bill, SB 416, which would be the first legislation of its kind in the United States if passed.

“In using nontherapeutic antibiotics on livestock, we are immobilizing our first line of defense against foodborne illness and rendering new human drugs ineffective before they even come on the market,” said Food & Water Watch Research Analyst Elanor Starmer, who testified on behalf of the organization at the hearing. “Food & Water Watch strongly supports a phasing-out of nontherapeutic and prophylactic antibiotics in farm animal production and believes that this change can be made without significant cost impacts to producers or consumers.”

Nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics – or the use of drugs when animals are not sick - are common on factory farms, where animals are housed in close quarters and disease can spread quickly. According to Food & Water Watch research, half of the antibiotics added to livestock feeds are the same or very similar to antibiotics, like penicillin and tetracycline, given to humans for life-threatening illnesses. When antibiotics are used for growth promotion or to prevent illness, bacteria like E. coli 0157:H7 are exposed to low doses of antibiotics over long periods of time. Once some bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, they can transfer that resistance to other bacteria, causing devastating consequences for humans. Bacteria can then be transmitted through direct contact between animals and workers, in water, or on meat consumers purchase in retail stores.

“There are documented cases where sick people did not respond to the antibiotics used to treat them because of bacterial resistance from livestock use,” said Starmer. “This should be sounding alarms for state legislatures and Congress, especially with the flood of foodborne illness outbreaks over the past year. We commend Senator Florez for being the first to address this issue and we hope California will set an example for the nation.”

In addition to banning nontherapeutic antibiotic use in livestock in California, SB 416 would create a purchasing policy for all government institutions favoring meat and poultry produced without nontherapeutic antibiotics and would prohibit schools from serving poultry produced with nontherapeutic antibiotics.
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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.


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