Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) joined Certified AWA farmer Will Witherspoon to reintroduce the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) (H.R. 1552), which would ban nontherapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics in food animal production and help curb the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

Every year at least two million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result. Last year, an outbreak of multi-antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg caused by tainted poultry from California producer Foster Farms sickened almost 650 Americans across the country.

The inappropriate use of any antibiotic can contribute to resistance, but by far the biggest offender is the intensive livestock farming industry. U.S. intensive farms use more antibiotics per pound of meat than any other nation. Almost 80% of all antibiotics produced in the U.S. are used in food animal production–29.9 million pounds in 2011 alone. Unlike other countries, such as in the European Union, there is little control over farm antibiotic use in the U.S. and many antibiotics are routinely added to animal feed/water without the need for veterinary oversight or prescription. These drugs are not used to treat sick animals: they are used at subtherapeutic levels to prevent the inevitable outbreak of disease among the billions of chickens, cattle, and pigs raised intensively each year in overcrowded, stressful, and insanitary conditions. Scientists around the world–including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)–now emphatically link this routine nontherapeutic use of antibiotics as a key cause of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

PAMTA would prohibit the nontherapeutic use of medically important antibiotics to livestock, and would withdraw FDA approval of antibiotics for nontherapeutic use unless the drug manufacturer demonstrates a reasonable certainty that such use will not harm human health due to antibiotic resistance. PAMTA would not restrict the use of antibiotics to treat sick animals, and would only reach classes of drugs used in human medicine, leaving other drug options available to farmers. PAMTA is supported by 450 organizations, including public health organizations, scientists, the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, and numerous farming organizations such as Animal Welfare Approved.