Did you know that, according to the Union for Concerned Scientists, about 70 percent of the antibiotics in U.S. are fed to pigs, cattle, sheep, chickens and other animals raised for food? It's been a long time in coming, but it seems that Americans are finally paying attention to what happens to animals behind closed shed doors. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), those mega-animal-farms famous for stuffing animals full of questionable feed and antibiotics and confining them to cramped, unsanitary quarters, never to see the light of day—are ripe (pardon the pun) for re-evaluation and stringent regulation. Now with possible links to swine flu and MRSA outbreaks, the U.S. government is considering greater regulation of antibiotics fed to animals, particularly those given to promote growth rather than to combat disease.
Says Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who introduced the bill (H.R. 1549) known as the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA): "The practice of over-using antibiotics in animal feed is certainly contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This legislation will play a critical role in protecting the integrity of our antibiotics and the health of all Americans." And at last week's House debate on the issue, Deputy FDA Commissioner Josh Sharfstein expressed support for the proposed legislation.
Go here to express YOUR support for H.R. 1549.
Learn more about the issue: Read this insightful Ethicurean.com interview with journalist–expert Maryn McKenna for the lowdown on pigs and MRSA in people. Tom Philpott of Grist explains the issue and why legislation is only one small step in the right direction. And see this interesting sidenote: According to Environmental Health News, antibiotics can be absorbed by crops when in animal waste used as fertilizer.