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Councilmembers O’Brien, Licata Urge Congress to Stop Misuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production

City of Seattle
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4/1/2014

Councilmembers O’Brien, Licata Urge Congress to Stop Misuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production

Seattle Councilmembers Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata and members of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee voted in favor of Resolution 31514, a measure to support a statewide and national ban on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock production in order to help prevent the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria in our food.  The Resolution urges the passage of House Bill 1150, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) in the United States House of Representatives, and of Senate Bill 1256, the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA) in the United States Senate. 

Low doses of antibiotics are routinely fed to livestock for growth promotion and disease prevention, a practice known as "nontherapeutic use", which is done in an effort to compensate for crowded, unsanitary conditions. The development of antibiotic resistant bacteria on livestock operations have been known to spread to retail meat, farmers and farmworkers, and rural environments. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic resistant bacteria have been the cause of several foodborne illness outbreaks; including a 2011 outbreak of antibiotic resistant Salmonella in ground turkey that sickened 136 people, hospitalized 37, killed one person, and lead to the third largest meat recall in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s records.  A 2013 outbreak of antibiotic resistant Salmonella in chicken sickened 416 people and hospitalized 162.

"Antibiotic resistance is a lot like the ‘global warming’ crisis of clinical medicine," said O’Brien. "It’s a serious problem which will only worsen unless we take immediate action at all levels of government."

The CDC has reported that eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in livestock production.  At least two million Americans suffer from antibiotic resistant bacterial infections each year and twenty-three thousand Americans die from those infections.

"What makes today’s resolution particularly important is that despite ongoing acknowledgement of a significant public health threat, the federal government still largely relies on voluntary compliance to reduce overuse in livestock," said Licata.

City Councils in four other cities, including Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, OH; Providence, RI; and Redhook NJ, have passed resolutions in support of a statewide and national ban on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock production. 

"The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is making our families sick," said Food & Water Watch organizer Eva Resnick-Day. "Dozens of members of the medical community, farming community, and Seattle citizens have volunteered their time to raise awareness and to advocate for this resolution with Seattle City Council. With this important step, we want Senator Patty Murray to know Seattle has her back to tackle this public health crisis."

This Seattle campaign is the seventh campaign PCC Natural Markets has supported over the past 14 years to end the use of non-therapeutic drugs on livestock. "PCC Natural Markets has sold meat and poultry raised without antibiotics for almost 20 years. It’s what shoppers want, and rightly so: industry needs to address the filth and stress from confining animals, not rely on drugs to allow those conditions to continue," said Trudy Bialic, Director of Public Affairs at PCC Natural Markets. "Passing this council resolution sends a message to Congress and the FDA that people want action—not more loopholes like the ones in FDA’s proposed, voluntary plan."  

"Health professionals across the country are working hard to curb inappropriate antibiotic use in human medicine—and it’s something every prescriber has been guilty of—but human antibiotic use accounts for just 20% of total antibiotic use in the U.S.," said Scott Weissman, Director of Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. "We in the medical community have an obligation to our patients to preserve these life-saving drugs by also seeking to curb unnecessary usage in agriculture, which accounts for the remaining 80% of use in the U.S."

In addition to this local resolution, the University of Washington Medical Center’s Food and Nutrition program have announced they are amending their policy to state that all pork and poultry products served at UWMC will be 100% antibiotic free. 

The Resolution is expected to be voted on by Full Council on Monday, April 7.

[View in Council Newsroom]

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