California Enacts Strongest Limits in the U.S. on Antibiotics in Livestock

Experts

Director, West Coast Office and State Campaigns

October 10, 2015

Consumers Union Praises Governor Brown For Signing Bill to Restrict the Use of Antibiotics in Healthy Animals

 SACRAMENTO, CA – Meat producers in California will be barred from routinely feeding medically important antibiotics to healthy animals under legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown today.  The new law, which goes into effect in January 2018, enacts the toughest limits in the country to date on the use of antibiotics in livestock, according Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports.  Medical experts agree that the overuse of antibiotics for meat production threatens public health by contributing to the spread of dangerous, drug-resistant superbugs.

“We can’t afford to waste antibiotics on healthy animals at a time when these critical drugs are losing their power to treat disease,” said Elisa Odabashian, Director of Consumers Union’s West Coast Office.  “California’s new law establishes stronger limits than current voluntary federal guidelines and should prevent the irresponsible use of antibiotics important in human medicine for meat production.  We applaud Governor Brown and state lawmakers for taking this important step to help protect public health and stop the careless overuse of antibiotics in livestock.”

Approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to mostly healthy animals like cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary industrial farms.  This practice promotes the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can spread to our communities.   As antibiotic resistance grows, the medications used to treat infections in people become less effective.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that drug-resistant infections sicken at least two million people very year and that 23,000 die as a result.

Under the new law, meat producers will be prohibited from using medically important antibiotics in livestock unless they have a prescription from a veterinarian to treat a disease or to prevent disease provided this preventive use is not routine. It also requires the California Department of Food and Agriculture to gather information on the use of antibiotics in meat production to track how they are being used.

Consumers Union had opposed SB 27 up until the last few weeks of the legislative session because it still allowed meat producers to regularly give medically important antibiotics to animals even though they aren’t sick.  Governor Brown vetoed a similar version of the bill last year, which Consumers Union and other groups urged him to do.  In the final weeks before the end of the legislative session, Governor Brown’s administration worked with Senator Hill to amend the bill to limit the use of antibiotics for disease prevention, which prompted Consumers Union and others to support its final passage.

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Contact:  Elisa Odabashian, eodabashian@consumer.org, 415-431-6747 or David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262