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Representative Slaughter Leads Effort to Protect Public from Superbugs

Meat and poultry producers routinely feed antibiotics to healthy animals to make them grow faster and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. These practices breed drug-resistant superbugs that make human diseases more difficult and costly to treat and more likely to cause death. Fortunately, on March 14, U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2013 (PAMTA) to restrict animal agricultural practices that threaten the public’s health. Under the bill, eight classes of antibiotics critical for curing infections in humans would be available for use on industrial farms only to treat sick animals or herds. 

"We've got to eliminate antibiotic overuse on industrial farms in order to protect human health."

- Laura Rogers, Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming

"We've got to eliminate antibiotic overuse on industrial farms in order to protect human health," said Laura Rogers, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts' work on antibiotics in agriculture. “As the only microbiologist in Congress, Representative Slaughter is uniquely qualified to understand the threat that antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose. We’re grateful for her longstanding leadership and look forward to working with her and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to solve this growing health problem.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently reported record-high sales of antibiotics for use on industrial farms in 2011, the last year for which data are available. Excluding ionophores, a class of drugs not used in human medicine and which would not be affected by PAMTA, 73 percent of antibiotics sold for use in the United States were intended for food animals.

Officials from the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have testified before Congress that there is a definitive link between the use of antibiotics in food animal production and the crisis of drug-resistant infections in humans. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other leading scientists and medical experts, including four Nobel laureates, warn that use of these drugs in food animals creates new strains of dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They are supported by hundreds of studies conducted over the past four decades, including new research indicating that antibiotic overuse contributes to diseases not traditionally associated with food consumption, such as drug-resistant urinary tract infections and virulent and contagious strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA.

Each year, antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and up to $26 billion in extra health care costs. 

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