California may become the first state to ban the routine use of antibiotics in livestock raised for meat if Gov. Jerry Brown signs pending legislation by Sunday.
State lawmakers approved Senate Bill 27 in September and sent it to the Governor’s desk. The bill would prohibit the use of low-dose antimicrobial drugs to promote growth and prevent disease in animals, poultry and farm-raised fish beginning Jan. 1, 2018.
Under the bill, antibiotics can be used if ordered by prescription by a licensed veterinarian to treat disease, after surgery, or as a prophylaxis in some cases deemed medically necessary.
The legislation goes a step further than U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance to be implemented next year, which prohibits the use of antibiotics for growth promotion, but still allows its use for the prevention of disease.
SB 27 would also require the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture to develop stewardship guidelines for the use of antibiotics in consultation with the Veterinary Medical Board, state health officials and other experts.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked the use of low-dose antibiotics in animal agriculture to an increase in antibiotic-resistant infections, blamed for an estimated 23,000 deaths each year.
Environmental groups urged Brown to sign the bill, saying California could become a bellwether for stricter regulations nationwide.
“SB 27 instantly puts California at the forefront of U.S. efforts to end livestock misuse of antibiotics,” Avinash Kar, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s health program, said in a statement. “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.”
Under pressure from consumers, restaurant chains are increasingly moving to meat from animals raised without the routine use of antibiotics.
Chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread have long promoted their use of meat raised without antibiotics, and McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway have said they are moving in that direction.
Large meat producers like Tyson, Foster Farms and Perdue have also begun phasing out the use of antibiotics, especially in chickens.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout