Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 18th 2014 Contents B36
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, September 18, 2014
Two US lawmakers are calling for action to rein
in antibiotic use in livestock in response to a Reuters
investigation showing how top US poultry firms
have been administering drugs to their flocks.
US Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY), said she plans
to introduce new legislation authorising the Food
and Drug Administration to collect data on "farm-
level antibiotic use."
The pledge was part of a letter Gillibrand sent
Tuesday to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
In the letter, Gillibrand said that "the scale of inju-
dicious use" of antibiotics in poultry production doc-
umented by Reuters "was staggering."
Another member of Congress, Rep Louise Slaughter,
(D-NY), urged fellow lawmakers to address the issue
at a hearing on antibiotic resistance scheduled tomor-
row before the House Energy and Commerce Com-
mittee s subcommittee on health.
"Industry has kept data showing the rampant,
dangerous use of antibiotics hidden from the public
for one reason: to protect corporate profits at the
expense of public health," Slaughter said.
Reuters reviewed more than 320 internal docu-
ments, called "feed tickets," that detail the practices
of five major companies---Tyson Foods, Pilgrim s
Pride, Perdue Farms, George s and Koch Foods. The
feed tickets list the names and grams per ton of each
"active drug ingredient" in feed. They also indicate
the FDA-approved purpose of those medications,
and specify during which stage in a chicken s roughly
six-week life the feed should be administered.
The documents show that antibiotics were given
as standard practice over most of the life of the chick-
ens, not just when the birds are sick. In every instance
of antibiotic use identified, the doses were at the
low levels that scientists say are especially conducive
to the growth of so-called superbugs---bacteria that
can gain resistance to conventional medicines used
to treat people. Some of the antibiotics belong to
categories considered medically important to humans.
In interviews, another major producer, Foster Poul-
try Farms, acknowledged that it also has used the
antibiotics chlortetracycline and penicillin selectively
but not as part of standard feed. The two drugs are
in the same classes as antibiotics considered medically
important to humans by the FDA.
The FDA has issued voluntary guidelines to regulate
antibiotic use by producers of poultry and other live-
stock. The use of antibiotics rated medically important
by the FDA for growth promotion is scheduled to be
phased out by December 2016. The FDA says it also
inspects the mills where animal feed is made but
does not examine the feed tickets themselves---doc-
uments that show how drugs are administered.
In response to the Reuters report, the National
Chicken Council, an industry trade group, said that
the majority of antibiotics approved for use in raising
chickens are not used in human medicine, and pose
no threat of creating resistance.
"We understand the concern about the use of
antibiotics in farm animals and recognise our respon-
sibility to ensure they are properly used for the right
reasons to protect the health of animals, humans and
the food supply," said Ashley Peterson, the council s
vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs.
Gillibrand said the legislation she intends to sponsor
would enable the FDA to track farm-level antibiotic
use by collecting veterinary prescriptions. Under a
new FDA rule, company veterinarians will be required
to issue a prescription whenever antibiotics are used.
But that rule doesn t take effect until April 2016.
Some companies are reluctant to discuss how they
medicate their flocks.
In a letter dated September 8, Pilgrim s Pride
Dangerous use of antibiotics
hidden by top poultry firms
advised its growers to protect "our confidential
and proprietary information (information such as
the information contained on feed tickets for exam-
Violating what the company called "biosecurity
and confidentiality obligations" is "a terminable
offence" and the growers could be liable for dam-
ages, the letter said. Growers were asked to sign
and date the letter.
A Pilgrim s Pride spokesman did not respond
to a request for comment. (Reuters)
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