Rep. Louise Slaughter, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Public Interest Coalition Call for Labeling of Meat from Antibiotic-Dosed AnimalsPosted on August 6, 2013
“Superbug” Health Crisis Prompts Petition to Federal Agency
For immediate release:
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
SAN FRANCISCO – The national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), joined by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and a broad-based coalition of public interest groups including the Sierra Club, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, and Friends of Family Farmers, has sent a formal letter asking the USDA and the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to consider a petition to properly label meat and poultry products derived from animals given antibiotics. The coalition’s letter is supplemented by a letter of support sent directly from Rep. Slaughter, who has represented New York’s 25th Congressional district for more than 25 years. The letters urge the agencies to act on ALDF’s June 2013 petition to FSIS, which would require accurate labeling on meat and poultry that derives from animals administered antibiotics. The petition marks the first consumer-oriented legal action aimed at alerting the public, via food labeling, of the health hazards posed by antibiotic abuse on factory farms.
Dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as “superbugs,” result from the mass administration of drugs to animals used in industrial agriculture. Factory farms routinely administer antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease in high-density, unsanitary confinement and to more cheaply speed animal growth to slaughter weight on less feed.
In response to this growing public health crisis, Rep. Louise Slaughter, joined by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), reintroduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2013 (PAMTA). In her latest letter, Rep. Slaughter prevailed upon FSIS to consider adopting the labeling standards proposed in ALDF’s petition. “I am deeply troubled that federal agencies have not taken meaningful action to protect the public health, alert customers to these dangers, and implement labeling that would empower customers to choose safer, antibiotic-free products,” Slaughter said. “ALDF’s proposed labeling would help to alleviate some of these concerns.”
Backed by a bipartisan alliance, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Susan Collins, and Kirsten Gillibrand have also introduced the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (2013), aimed at preventing the acceleration of antibiotic resistance and the development of superbugs. The Act directs the FDA to phase out the non-therapeutic use in animal agriculture of antibiotics critical to human health.
Research suggests antibiotic-resistant E. coli and salmonella likely originate from farmed animals who are given antibiotics at “sub-therapeutic” levels intended to prevent, rather than treat, illnesses. Approximately 80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to livestock, nearly all of which is administered at sub-therapeutic levels. Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has called the urgent need for new, more effective antibiotics “a huge crisis worldwide.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that sub-therapeutic antibiotic use in animal agriculture is a threat to public health. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirms a causal link between antibiotic use in animals and adverse human health effects.
“The USDA has a responsibility to mandate that information be clearly labeled on U.S. meat and poultry products,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “It is the intensive confinement of factory farms that results not only in horrific animal suffering, but the public health crisis we now face as a consequence of antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs.’”
Copies of ALDF’s letter and petition to the USDA, and Rep. Slaughter’s letter to the USDA, are available upon request. ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit aldf.org.