U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a bill on Wednesday to phase out the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy farm animals within two years. She contends this practice contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans.

The bill, "The Preservation of Antibiotics for Human Treatment Act of 2002," is endorsed by a number of consumer activist groups. Original bill cosponsors include Reps. Harry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), who also is a bacteriologist.

The introduction of Rep. Brown's bill coincides with the release of a new national poll showing that by nearly a five to three margin (52 percent vs. 32 percent) poll respondents believe Congress (should) enact a law to stop the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy farm animals. The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch between Jan. 23-27.

The poll respondents also said by more than a two to one margin (65 percent vs. 27 percent) that they "would buy meat and poultry raised without antibiotics if they were available at your grocer even if doing so raised your total grocery bill by 80 cents per week." (The 80 cents per week cost increase is the National Academy of Sciences' estimate for a family of four of eliminating all antibiotics in healthy animals, not just medically important ones, as Rep. Brown's bill would do.)

In addition, by more than a two to one margin (62 percent vs. 25 percent) poll respondents "think farms should voluntarily end (the use of medically important antibiotics in healthy farm animals) even if no law requires them to do so.

The legislation also would ban the use of Cipro-like antibiotics to treat sick poultry and prevent illness in healthy poultry within six months. The Food and Drug Administration proposed such a ban in October 2000, but the sole remaining manufacturer of these drugs for poultry, the Germany-based Bayer Corporation, is fighting the proposed ban through a hearing process that may take years to complete.

U.S. Newswire