Wednesday, September 30, 2015

California May Enact Nation's Most Restrictive Laws Regarding Livestock Antibiotic Use

Written by Katharine Richter

On September 11, 2015, the California legislature passed SB No. 27, which proposes strict restrictions on antibiotic use in livestock.  The enrolled bill still needs to be signed by California Governor Jerry Brown (D) to be enacted. 

The bill, if signed by the Governor, would become operative starting January 1, 2018.  The bill would prohibit “medically important antimicrobial drugs” from being administered to livestock “unless ordered by a licensed veterinarian through a prescription or veterinary feed directive pursuant to a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.”  The bill would not allow the administration of antibiotics if the only purpose is “weight gain or improving feed efficiency.”

The bill further requires that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) develop antimicrobial guidelines and best management practices.  CDFA will also be in charge of surveillance and gathering information.  Any violators will be “subject to a civil penalty of up to $250 for each day a violation occurs.”  A second and subsequent violations will be increased to a “fine of $500 for each day a violation occurs.”

According to the Consumers Union website, this bill will be the toughest law to date on limiting the use of antibiotics in livestock.  The website states that “approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to mostly healthy animals…to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary industrial farms.”  According to a Food Chemical News article, industry groups “haven’t mounted strong opposition to the bill.”  Industry groups recognize the need to address the future effectiveness of antibiotics but the concern with the proposed legislation is the potential burden on rural farmer’s access to veterinarians.  

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