Washington, D.C. – Following her yearlong push for reform, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today applauded the new White House regulations that will require veterinarians to oversee the use of medically-important antibiotics in food animals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations establish a the Veterinary Feed Directive which requires that medically important antibiotics be used under veterinary oversight, halts the over-the-counter sale of antibiotics, and ends the use of these important medications for growth promotion. Senator Gillibrand has pushed for this new directive since January 2014 in letters to the FDA and the Office of Management and Budget, stressing the need for better oversight of antibiotics used in animals raised for human consumption.
The FDA confirmed the misuse and overuse of antibiotics is a key factor in the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that drug-resistant bacteria causes two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. The Veterinary Feed Directive will ensure that antibiotics used in animal feeds will be used in appropriate dosages and for a specified time.
“If a foodborne illness is caused by an antibiotic resistant bacteria, it is much harder to treat. We know that the misuse of antibiotics contributes to resistance which is why I pushed for better oversight of the medicines used in animal feeds,” Senator Gillibrand a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Thousands of Americans are hospitalized each year because of foodborne illness, and an alarming number of those cases are resistant to the medicines doctors use to treat patients. This new directive gives veterinarians the tools they need to dispense medically important antibiotics more judiciously and efficiently, helping to curb the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria and make our food safer. By ending the over-the-counter sale of these medicines we can better preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics humans need to stay healthy.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year approximately 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. According the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, nearly a quarter of all cut-up chicken parts are contaminated by Salmonella and another Consumer Reports study found that one third of all chicken breast with Salmonella carry a drug resistant strain of the disease.
Earlier this year Senator Gillibrand introduced two pieces of legislation regarding food safety, the Safe Food Act and the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act. The Safe Food Act would consolidate food safety authorities into a single independent food safety agency called the Food Safety Administration to oversee food safety functions including inspections, enforcement, recalls and restrictions on pathogens like Salmonella and E.coli. The Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act would provide the USDA with mandatory recall authority over contaminated meat and poultry and allow the USDA to recommend a voluntary recall of a product to a manufacturer, importer, distributor, or retailer.