Check out Chipotle Founder Steve Ells’ write-up in yesterdays Huffington Post. Says Ells, “Many might think that a restaurant chain like ours would not care about this issue. After all, most restaurant companies focus largely on assuring a high-volume food supply, lower production costs, and increasing profits. From an ethical, economic, and public health perspective, pumping animals full of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick is way to cut corners, not a way to forge a sustainable and humane model for food production.
“Federal action to improve the conditions of our factory farms is necessary because these large farms account for the vast majority of meat produced in this country, but their practices carry a number of horrific unintended consequences – from polluting rivers, streams and coastal waters, to air quality problems, and endangering the lives of people by contributing to the proliferation of antibiotic resistant infections. Scientists and public health officials have offered a slew of recommendations to reverse these negative side effects, many of which are presented in a recent Pew Commission report on industrial farm animal production in America.
Ells calls for the public support of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) now before Congress. “I hope that private citizens will support the Act by contacting their local congressional representative. If the legislation passes, it could take as many as two years to phase out this indiscriminate overuse of antibiotics. It’s time to get the process started. Let’s preserve these drugs for the sick animals and humans who need them. Antibiotic use is not a prerequisite to life on the farm, but rather a threat to life itself.”
In a letter to Congress, the president of the American Farm Bureau said that a bill to ban the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics, introduced last week by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), would hurt the health of livestock and compromise food safety.
A Reuters News Agency report quoted the letter from Bob Stallman, who told Congress that Farm Bureau members “carefully, judiciously and according to label instructions” use antibiotics to treat, prevent and control disease in animals.
“Antibiotic use in animals does not pose a serious public health threat,” said Stallman, who urged lawmakers to oppose the bill. “Restricting access to these important tools will jeopardize animal health and compromise our ability to contribute to public health through food safety.” he added. Read More >
An article in today’s Environmental Health News reports vegetable crops are absorbing antibiotics used in livestock production. Research conducted at the University of Minnesota showed levels of antibiotics commonly used in livestock production turning up in corn, lettuce and other plants. The transfer from livestock to crops takes place when manure, which is used as fertilizer, is added to the soil to help plants grow. Last April, concerned about the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the human population, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production called for the phase out and ban of non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in livestock production.
The use of antibiotics in animal agriculture and the FDA’s recent decision to reverse a proposed rule on their use was the topic of an op-ed that began running in daily newspapers during the past week. The op-ed is authored by John Carlin, former governor of Kansas and chairman of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. The op-ed has appeared in several newspapers, including the Tacoma News Tribune; Portsmouth (NH) Herald; Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune; Lawrence (KS) Journal World.
Today leaders in the sustainable agriculture community, organized by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, briefed members of the Obama transition team on priorities. It was great to have the transition team’s ear, and to hear so many positive action ideas for the administration’s initial work. CLF director, Dr. Bob Lawrence spoke of the epidemic of antibiotic resistance, and emphasized the need for the FDA to strengthen antibiotic licensing and permitting requirements in animal agriculture. He also urged the USDA to take an in-depth look at the food safety impacts of antibiotic use in animal agriculture. These recommendations and others are outlined in more detail as part of the Pew Commission report.
Most of the recommendations discussed did not address public health per se, although many had significant implications for public health. We in the public health community are organizing to provide further input on issues relevant to the connections between food systems and public health.
Here are some other public health-related recommendations discussed during the call.
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