(Adds Sen. Kennedy bill in paragraph 2)
By Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON, March 17 Despite growing public
support to ban the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food
animals, a U.S. representative said on Tuesday efforts to move
legislation through Congress this year could be met with
The bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by
Louise Slaughter and in the Senate by Edward Kennedy, would ban
the use of antibiotics important to human health from being
used on cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry unless animals are
Drug manufacturers would be allowed to sell antibiotics for
uses other than humans if they can show there is no danger to
public health from microbes developing resistance to them.
"We're up against a pretty strong lobby. It will really
come down to whether members of Congress want to protect their
constituents or agribusiness," said Slaughter. "I do believe
the chance are good, at least getting it through the House."
The bill has been introduced several times since the 1980s
but has been blocked by agribusiness interests.
An estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the
United States go toward healthy livestock, according to a study
by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Proponents of the ban say antibiotics are given to healthy
animals over a long period of time to compensate for unsanitary
and crowded conditions, and to promote weight gain, rather than
to combat an illness.
The concern is that the overuse of antibiotics in animals
leads to new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As a
result, people may be at risk of becoming sick by handling,
eating meat or coming in contact with animals that have an
Dave Warner, a spokesman with the National Pork Producers
Council, defended his industry.
He said 95 percent of antibiotics given to pigs are for
preventing, controlling or treating disease. If the bill goes
into effect, Warner said piglet deaths would go up, producer
costs would rise, meat output would drop and consumers would
see prices climb.
"There is no question there is a rise in antibiotic
resistant bacteria," said Warner. "What is in big doubt is that
the use of antibiotics in livestock has anything to do with
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N) has served millions of
pounds of meat from animals raised humanely without antibiotics
or added growth hormones as part of a broader company effort to
serve higher quality meats and vegetables.
"This commitment has been good for business," said Steve
Ells, founder and co-CEO of Chipotle, who said the company
increases prices a small amount as it introduces higher quality
"It allows us to afford these better ingredients and
customers have been willing to pay them," said Ells.
(Reporting by Christopher Doering; Editing by Marguerita