The bill, SB835, was proposed by San Mateo State Senator Jerry Hill and modeled on recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
According to the FDA, the majority of antibiotics in the United States are administered to animals and often used to grow stocks faster or even supplement actual food. In 2013, the FDA asked farmers to voluntarily limit their use of antibiotics on food animals (cattle, hogs, poultry, etc.), stating that bacteria in the livestock can develop resistance to the antimicrobials and be passed on to human consumers.
The World Health Organization considers antibiotic-resistant bacteria an “increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.” Patients are being admitted to hospitals across the globe with stronger strains of diseases that no longer respond to antibiotics or vaccinations.
“We need to be selective about the drugs we use in animals and when we use them,” says William Flynn, DVM, MS, deputy director for science policy at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “Antimicrobial resistance may not be completely preventable, but we need to do what we can to slow it down.”
The FDA encouraged voluntary compliance with its recommendations in the guidance document it released last year, saying it was the fastest way to get farmers to change their practices.
But California’s Senator Hill wanted to make the recommendation mandatory. “The Food and Drug Administration says that there is no scientific reason why antibiotics should be used to promote growth in livestock,” he said in a statement. “Prohibiting their use as growth promoters and making sure there is veterinarian oversight are common sense measures to reduce antibiotic resistance.”
Opponents of the bill fear that it does not go far enough. Veterinarians are still allowed to prescribe antibiotics for use in preventative care and there is no reporting mechanism to evaluate the bill’s effectiveness.
In a 2013 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 2 million people are sickened by antibiotic resistant infections every year. Of that group, 23,000 die.