California Governor Jerry Brown
California Governor Jerry Brown

By the end of the weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown will announce his decision on legislation by Sen. Jerry Hill that sets the strictest limits in the U.S. on the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in meat production. The bill will help protect the efficacy of antibiotics needed for human use. Antibiotics are a cornerstone of modern medicine.

Late in the legislative session, Gov. Brown called for substantial improvements to SB 27, adding stricter provisions that go significantly beyond the policy pursued by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The final bill waiting to be signed by Gov. Brown prohibits the regular use of antibiotics on animals that are not sick for either speeding up animal growth or so-called “disease prevention;” federal policy targets only growth promotion. It also requires the California Department of Food and Agriculture to develop a program to gather information on antibiotic use in meat production, puts livestock antibiotic use under veterinary oversight, and calls for the development of guidelines and best management practices for the use of antibiotics in livestock.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified antibiotic resistance as one of the top health threats facing the nation, putting the effectiveness of essential medicines at risk. CDC estimates that each year at least 23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 2 million people are sickened by such infections. Both human and animal use of antibiotics contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but more than 70 percent of sales of medically important antibiotics in the United States are for animal use. Most of these antibiotics are for use in feed and water, and much of it is given at low doses to large herds or flocks of healthy animals, which creates greater risk of breeding antibiotic resistance.

Following is a statement from Avinash Kar, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Health Program:

“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.”

Following is a statement from Jason Pfeifle, Public Health Advocate with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG):

“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. 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.”

Following is a statement from Bill Allayaud, California Director of Governmental Affairs for the Environmental Working Group (EWG):

“It is tremendous that California will lead the way on this critical issue for Californians, Americans, and indeed the world, as the FDA fiddles while Rome burns.  Once again, this Governor looks to the future and takes action. And, a big tip of the hat to Senator Hill who grasped the seriousness of the issue, worked on it for two years, and took it across the finish line.”

Following is a statement from Adam Scow, California Program Director for Food and Water Watch (FWW):

“Food & Water Watch is pleased that Gov. Brown has helped California take long overdue steps to rein in the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production. SB 27 will start to slow the threat to our health caused by antibiotic resistance and help make sure our lifesaving drugs work when we need them.”

Following is a statement from Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS):

“While there is much more to do to address the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance, and to reduce food safety and animal welfare impacts associated with industrial animal production, SB 27 steps in where the federal government has failed to act.  With SB 27, California will once again be a leader for the rest of the nation by taking these efforts to reduce the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in livestock.”

Following is a statement from Victoria Rome, California Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“With his call for improvements to SB 27, Gov. Brown is firmly on the side of science and public health. The administration’s changes turned SB 27 from a bill opposed by NRDC and the public interest community into a bill we support. We applaud Gov. Brown for his leadership.”