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Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Representing the 25th District of New York

Louise Line: Preserving our Antibiotics

March 20, 2017
Louise Line
March 20, 2017

I’m proud to have recently introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). This bill would prevent a nightmarish post-antibiotic future by preserving eight classes of antibiotics from being regularly fed to healthy animals in order to save these antibiotics for sick humans and sick animals only. A similar bipartisan bill was also introduced in the Senate.

Each year, more than two million Americans get an antibiotic-resistant infection and at least 23,000 die from those infections. It’s estimated that by 2050, one person could die from an antibiotic-resistant infection every three seconds. What’s more, the average hospitalization period for an antibiotic-resistant infection is four days, costing $20 to $35 billion every year in the United States alone. Globally, antibiotic-resistant infections cause at least 70,000 deaths each year, with an annual estimated cost to be as high as $1.2 trillion.

Antibiotics are not like other drugs: the more we use them, the less effective they become in fighting infections and illnesses. Sadly, corporate agriculture is using them at an irresponsible rate, with 80 percent of antibiotics sold in this country being fed to healthy livestock on factory farms. These antibiotics are distributed at sub-therapeutic levels to animals as a way to compensate for crowded and unsanitary living conditions and to promote unhealthy, fast growth.

This affects all of us when we consume meats from animals grown on factory farms. A recent study by the Environmental Working Group found that 81 percent of ground turkey, 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef, and 39 percent of chicken breasts, wings, or thighs in grocery stores across the country contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria that, when consumed, have the potential to make you sick. 

I have been sounding this alarm for years, but sadly many leaders have failed to take the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections seriously. In May, the first-ever antibiotic-resistant superbug was reported in the United States. This proves that a post-antibiotic future isn’t some far off threat, it’s here.

It is beyond time for meaningful action on this important bill so that we can protect the public health and stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections in its tracks. I will continue to advocate for PAMTA, so that we can finally break the stranglehold that corporate agriculture and pharmaceutical companies have on our public health policy to help keep you safe.