March 24, 2009

Study: Livestock Antibiotic Ban Poses Risk To Food Safety

Legislation that would block the use of antibiotics for veterinary and farm use would be detrimental to the health of US livestock as well as pose risks for national food safety, according to the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In an open letter to Congress on Tuesday, AFBF President Bob Stallman said bills H.R. 1549 and S. 619 would increase the amount of animal deaths, resulting in skyrocketing producer costs, falling meat production, and rising consumer costs.

"Farmers and ranchers and the veterinarians they work with use antibiotics carefully, judiciously and according to label instructions, primarily to treat, prevent and control disease in our flocks and herds," Stallman said.

"Antibiotics are critically important to the health and welfare of the animals and to the safety of the food produced."

Stallman pointed to the 40-year history of antibiotic use in farm animals to show that it does not pose a human health threat.

"In order to raise healthy animals, we need tools to keep them healthy "“ including medicines that have been approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration," Stallman said.

"Restricting access to these important tools will jeopardize animal health and compromise our ability to contribute to public health through food safety."

But the bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by Louise Slaughter and in the Senate by Edward Kennedy, seeks to outlaw the use of antibiotics in livestock unless they are sick in an effort to reduce health risk from the possible development of antibiotic-resistant diseases.

Stallman told members of Congress that by opposing the bills, they would "protect the professional judgment of veterinarians and livestock producers in providing safe and healthful meat products" for consumers.

According to a Union of Concerned Scientists study cited by Reuters, an estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States go toward healthy livestock.


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