California Governor Jerry Brown has enacted the tightest legislation in the nation to combat the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. The bill, which is set to go into effect in January 2018, will require a vet to have strong evidence that an animal is at risk of a disease before animal antibiotics can be used—making it stricter than federal regulations set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The purpose of the bill, SB 27, is to combat a growing epidemic of drug resistant superbugs, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls a top public health threat. Each year, 23,000 people die from infections that are resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them. According to the CDC, these drug resistant infections are caused by the overuse of animal antibiotics, 80 percent of which are used in livestock production.
“SB 27 instantly puts California at the forefront of U.S. efforts to end livestock misuse of antibiotics. It is a game changer: by reining in the misuse of these miracle drugs, it helps ensure that life-saving antibiotics will be effective when we need them most,” Avinash Kar, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Health Program said in a statement.
The bill also expands the list of drug products that will require a prescription in order to be administered, with firms subject to daily fines ranging from $250 to $500 each day a violation occurs.
“We don’t give antibiotics regularly to humans who aren’t sick and we shouldn’t be giving them to animals that aren’t sick either. For decades, the careless overuse of antibiotics in meat production has promoted the growth and spread of drug-resistant bacteria that threaten human health,” said Jason Pfeifle, public health advocate with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG). “Despite the steady rise in antibiotic-resistant infections, neither Congress nor the Obama Administration has taken meaningful action to stop this dangerous practice on factory farms. With these new restrictions on regular antibiotic use in meat production, our medicine is more likely to work when we need it.”
Last year, Gov. Brown vetoed a bill that he said wouldn’t make a measurable impact on the spread of antibiotic resistant superbugs, describing the bill as an “unnecessary duplication of the FDA plan." He then directed legislators "to find new and effective ways to reduce the unnecessary antibiotics used for livestock and poultry."
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