Livestock veterinarians hold antibiotic use briefings on Capitol Hill

Posted 17 March 2010

Expert panelists discussed the judicious use of antibiotics in the livestock and poultry industry with Congressional staff in two separate briefings held last month. The antibiotics-use issue continues to receive media and Congressional attention, and the briefing shed light on how farmers and ranchers utilize antibiotics.

In briefings held to U.S. House of Representatives staff and later to U.S. Senate staff, veterinarians who work with livestock presented information about the use of and need for antibiotics for keeping livestock healthy. Dr. Craig Rowles spoke from his perspective as a veterinarian and long-time pork producer. As an expert in poultry medicine, Dr. Timothy Cummings focused his discussion on why and how antibiotics are used in poultry production. With his experience as a veterinarian and dairy producer, Dr. Leon Weaver stressed the importance of being able to ensure a safe product—milk—that is marketed every day.

Dr. Guy Loneregan, a veterinarian and epidemiologist whose primary research focus is epidemiological approaches to food safety, emphasized the need to weigh the public health benefits against the risks when looking at the issue of using antibiotics in livestock and poultry. Dr. Loneregan presented one study which showed the use of some antibiotics actually reducing levels of resistance and another study showing an increase in human disease from stopping use of a certain antibiotic compared to continued use.

The debate over whether or not antibiotic usage in food animal production is contributing to resistance in human medicine is not a new one. The science is still not clear on whether or where impacts are being made. We must continue to rely on risk-based assessments and support FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine processes when making decisions, so that unintended consequences, like increased animal disease and death, are avoided. As Dr. Cummings stated, "We can stop certain antibiotic usages ..., but there will be an increase in some disease conditions which will have negative health and welfare implications."

Reps. David Scott (D-Ga.), Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Zack Space (D-Ohio), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) sponsored the briefing with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producer's Council, National Milk Producer's Federation, National Turkey Federation, American Meat Institute and National Meat Association.

We encourage you to join us in telling Congress to vote "NO" on the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). Take action by clicking the link below and entering your zip code.

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