Preservation of Essential Antibiotics for Human Diseases Act

August 16, 2000

Re: H.R. #3266
Congressman Sherrod Brown
201 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D. C. 20515

Dear Congressman Brown,

On behalf of PCC Natural Markets and our 40,000 member households, I am writing to thank you for sponsoring H. R. # 3266, the Preservation of Essential Antibiotics for Human Diseases Act.

PCC Natural Markets has eight (8) stores in the Puget Sound area of Washington State and is the largest cooperative retailer of natural and organic foods in the United States. As a consumer-owned cooperative dedicated to nutritional awareness and environmental health, PCC considers H. R. #3266 an important piece of legislation. We endorse its purpose and honor your excellent leadership on the concerns addressed.

We agree that antibiotic drugs essential to human health - such as penicillin, and tetracycline- should not be fed routinely to poultry, cattle and pigs to fatten them more quickly and cut costs. Of all antibiotics used in the U.S., an estimated 50 % is fed to livestock. The use of these drugs raises serious concerns about the safety of U. S. meat and the impact on human health.

As you know, reports from the National Academy of Sciences (1998) and the General Accounting Office (April 1999) show that the use of antibiotics in food animals is linked to the emergence of anti-biotic resistant strains of bacteria known to cause illness or disease in humans. Experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that the agricultural use of antibiotics is a significant source of antibiotic resistance among foodborne pathogens. The GAO reports these bacteria include salmonella, campylobacter, and escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli.

Infectious diseases such as these are the third leading cause of death in the United States and antibiotics are often needed to treat them.

In addition to the direct transfer of antibiotic-resistant organisms through animal products, the GAO reports that the use of antibiotics in animals may reduce the effectiveness of related antibiotics when used to treat humans. Many infectious diseases including pneumonia, tuberculosis and common childhood ear infections are caused by bacteria that have developed resistance to one or more previously effective antibiotics. Penicillin-resistant strains of pneumonia are dominant in many countries. The percentage of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin, for example, reportedly has grown from 13% in 1960 to 91% in 1988.

The GAO first questioned the health implications of using antiobiotics in animal feeds in 1977. Today, more than two decades later, federal agencies still have not reached agreement on the safe use of antibiotics in agriculture. The FDA has publicly stated that the current regulatory structure is inadequate to properly evaluate the human health impact of antibiotic resistance from using them in food animals.

CDC experts believe some antibiotics should not be used at all in animal feed to promote growth; the CDC supports restricting others, saying current use in animals may limit treatment options in ill persons. CDC specifically has asked the FDA to reconsider its approval of penicilliin and tetracycline for quickening animal growth, as well as it's approval of fluoroquinolones for treating disease and prevention in poultry. According to CDC, fluoroquinolones are vital antibiotics for treating serious Salmonella and Campylobacter infections in humans.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) believes that based on the current and increasing body of scientific evidence, steps are needed now - not at some time in the future - to decrease the risk to public health. The World Health Organization concurs, advocating an end to use of antibiotics in animal feed, in order to protect the health of consumers.

Your bill, H. R. 3266 addresses these concerns. It would provide not only a framework, but also specific goals and time frames, which are lacking from FDA's proposed framework. We applaud you for your efforts to address these matters. Without specific goals and time frames, human health concerns that were raised more than twenty years ago may remain unanswered.

Furthermore, removing selected antibiotics essential to human health from subtherapeutic use will not hurt the raising of livestock, because alternative husbandry practices are available. The American Veterinary Medical Association is educating vets on the potential risks posed by antibiotics in agriculture and emphasizes that appropriate husbandry, hygiene and routine health examinations are preferable to antibiotics.

Public health and safety must be the first priority of the food industry and of the regulatory agencies entrusted with their preservation. We're pleased to endorse H. R. 3266 as a significant step in the right direction.

Sincerely,

Jeff Voltz
Chief Executive Officer

cc: Representative Norm Dicks
Representative Jennifer Dunn
Representative Jay Inslee
Representative Jim McDermott
Representative Jack Metcalf
Representative Adam Smith
Senator Slade Gorton
Senator Patty Murray
Governor Gary Locke
Miles McEvoy, Wa. Dept. of Agriculture
Mary Frazee, Wa. Dept of Agriculture

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