Energy and Commerce Committee Examines Antibiotics Use in Livestock
WASHINGTON - Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to examine "the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals and its impact on human health." The hearing focused on the Food and Drug Administration's recent guidance on the judicious use of antibiotics, as well as legislation--the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act--to restrict the use of antibiotics in livestock.
Antimicrobial resistance is a multi-faceted and complex issue that can't be addressed by singling out the livestock industry alone. Our industry continues to actively monitor all of the international research on animal antibiotics to ensure that our policies are in line with the latest knowledge. To date, there is no conclusive scientific evidence indicating that the judicious use of antibiotics in cattle contributes to antimicrobial resistance in humans.
In fact, the non-scientific removal of antibiotics in Europe actually led to increased animal disease and increased use of therapeutic antibiotics with no demonstrable improvement in human antibiotic resistance patterns. As University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Epidemiology Dr. Randall Singer pointed out in his testimony, it's better to prevent disease from happening in the first place, rather than having to treat sick animals after they get sick. Several Republican members of the Committee reiterated this line of reasoning, pointing out the contradiction between efforts to ban antibiotics in livestock with the recently-passed health care bill, which focuses on the prevention of sickness before it starts.
In order to effectively understand the issue and find solutions, we need more research and a comprehensive nonpolitical evaluation of all the peer-reviewed science and risk assessment approach that looks at all antibiotics use, including animal, human and industrial use.
Ranchers have an obligation to protect cattle health and welfare. We also have an obligation to protect human health by providing a safe beef supply. That's why, for generations, cattle producers have worked closely with veterinarians in the careful use of antibiotics to prevent, control and treat disease. Preventive medicine keeps cattle healthy, and healthy cattle are the foundation of a safe food supply. Working with veterinarians, cattle producers use tools such as proper care, nutrition, vaccinations and medications to prevent, control and treat diseases.
Decisions affecting animal and human health are too important to be based on anything other than sound, peer-reviewed science. It's easy to target America's livestock producers, but it won't solve the problem. Agenda-driven, non-science-based banning of antibiotics would ultimately harm animal health, animal welfare, food safety and food security.