For decades, we’ve relied on antibiotics to treat infection. In a scary turn of events, however, we’re finding that when used improperly, these drugs are ineffective or can even worsen the problem by creating “superbugs” — bacteria that have become antibiotic-resistant.
Probably the most egregious example of improper antibiotic use comes from the livestock industry. Some 70 percent of total antibiotic use occurs in the livestock industry to speed growth and ward off disease, and some in the medical community are warning that we’re headed for disaster. Antibiotics are routinely used whether the animals are sick or not — breaking the first and most important rule of protecting antibiotic efficacy.
Enter Rep. Louise Slaughter’s H.R. 1549/S.619: The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009. The bill is designed to prevent the agricultural use of antibiotics important to human health unless the animals are sick.
Livestock organizations such as the United States Cattlemen’s Association state that if passed, American producers could no longer compete with foreign markets and our meat would have to be imported. Opponents claim that at the very least, meat prices would skyrocket to offset the increased costs experienced by producers.
Supporters of the bill maintain that antibiotic resistance adds millions to healthcare costs — $4 to $5 billion per year, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. The group also states that 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths are caused by food contaminated by dangerous pathogens and bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli each year, and these bugs are becoming increasingly antibiotic-resistant.
What do you think? Do you support this legislation? Let us know your thoughts.
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