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Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Representing the 25th District of New York

FDA Heeds Call by Slaughter and Advocates to Improve Data Collection on Antibiotics Use on Farms

August 20, 2015
Press Release
Overuse of Antibiotics in Healthy Animals Threatens Usefulness of Lifesaving Drugs

After being called on to act by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and leading advocacy groups, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced a public meeting to determine best practices for collecting on-farm data for antibiotic drug use and resistance. Slaughter and some of the nation’s foremost advocates for combating antibiotic resistance have recently stepped-up pressure on the administration to go beyond the current, inadequate system of reporting sales estimates and look into how antibiotics are actually being used on farms.

“After years of fighting the FDA to take meaningful action on antibiotic resistance, I hope that today’s announcement is a turning point in what has become a worldwide crisis,” said Rep. Slaughter. “For too long, the lack of detailed knowledge of on-farm antibiotic usage has been used by industry to downplay the scope of the problem and avoid responsibility for being part of the solution. Eighty percent of our nation’s antibiotics are fed daily to healthy animals, and the science is clear that this significantly contributes to resistance. Listening to leading scientists and advocates will improve the FDA’s rule making. I’m cautiously optimistic that this meeting will lead to collecting meaningful on-farm usage data and ultimately help to end the misuse of antibiotics that puts the public’s health at risk.” 

“This meeting is a common sense first step because we want FDA to stop simply relying on rough sale estimates and collect data about how antibiotics are actually being used and distributed to farms,” said David Wallinga, MD, Senior Health Officer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Right now we don’t even know which antibiotics are being fed to which species of animals, and how they are being used. To address the antibiotic resistance crisis, such information is indispensable. We’ve called for better data collection for years. With this meeting, we hope that the federal agencies are finally moving in the right direction.”

"In order for us to have any hope of saving the antibiotics we have left, we must know, first and foremost, how exactly they are being used, and in what quantities,” said Steven Roach, Senior Analyst for Keep Antibiotics Working. “Despite the widespread recognition that better data on antibiotic use is needed to control the spread of antibiotic resistance, federal agencies have failed to create a system to collect these data in an adequate, consistent, and comprehensive manner. Keep Antibiotics Working hopes that this meeting will lead to a commitment to collect these vitally important data."

"From a public health perspective, we need to know the amount, type, and duration of the antibiotics being given to farm animals by species. Site location will help provide the foundation to best understand antibiotic resistance related to farm animal use and is absolutely crucial. This meeting is a good step in what should be an ongoing effort to collect this critical data," said Bob Martin, director of the Food System Policy Program and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

“Antibiotics are the cornerstones of modern medicine, but if we don’t find ways to protect the drugs from needless overuse, their days of protecting us from deadly bacteria will come to an end,” said Lance B. Price, Ph.D., director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. “According to the most recent data in the United States, in 2013, 32.6 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use in food animals, about four times the antibiotics used in the medical system. Beyond this total number, we know little else. Currently, we cannot determine antibiotic use by animal species, production stages, indications, or even how often they are used without veterinary oversight. We simply must have more data on antibiotic use in food-animal production in order to preserve our life-saving antibiotics and slow this growing public health crisis.”

Congresswoman Slaughter has been a leading advocate for ending the overuse of antibiotics. As the only microbiologist in Congress, Slaughter wrote the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics by preventing their overuse on healthy food animals. She also introduced a bill to require robust reporting of antibiotic use by factory farms. In July, Rep. Slaughter convened a White House meeting of leading scientists and advocates to press key administration officials on the need for urgent action to combat antibiotic resistance. She has also introduced legislation to ensure our nation’s food supply remains safe and nutritious.