2014-07-24 / Front Page

‘Super-bug’ threat spurs push to limit antibiotics for livestock

Staff Writer

Dr. John Sensakovic, an infectious disease specialist, speaks about the potential danger of the overuse of antibiotics. Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin stands at right. 
KATHY CHANG/STAFF Dr. John Sensakovic, an infectious disease specialist, speaks about the potential danger of the overuse of antibiotics. Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin stands at right. KATHY CHANG/STAFF A ssemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin (DMiddlesex) is calling for Congress to curb certain antibiotics in livestock feed and ban feeding antibiotics to healthy animals.

The move came after a constituent contacted Pinkin about public health concerns stemming from antibiotics in livestock potentially leading to an increase in antibioticresistant infections in humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than 2 million people in the United States acquire serious antibiotic-resistant infections each year. Moreover, the CDC states that at least 23,000 people in the country die each year specifically from antibiotic-resistant infections, known as “super-bugs.”

The abuse of antibiotics on factory farms creates a perfect breeding ground for these super-bugs, which can get into the environment or the food supply and put the public at risk.

“As a longtime health care advocate, I believe that this is a growing health concern,” Pinkin said. “There’s nothing wrong with an effective use of antibiotics; however, I am seriously concerned that the overuse and indiscriminate use of antibiotics on our livestock will lead to a national epidemic. This resolution calls on Congress to take immediate preventive action and curb the unsafe use of medicines.” Pinkin was joined at a press conference held at JFK Medical Center on July 14 by Dr. John Sensakovic, an infectious disease specialist; Lauren Petrie of Food & Water Watch, New Jersey; and Kathleen Schatzmann, New Jersey director of the Humane Society of the United States.

“The future of antibiotics is bleak,” said Sensakovic, adding that education is needed to utilize antibiotics more efficiently and not overuse them. “More and more, the antibiotics are growing resistance and, at times, no longer work. We virtually have to go back to antibiotics that [haven’t been used for years] and hope that it will work.”

Sensakovic noted that the health field has not seen any new antibiotics, and urges greater effort in funding research and development in the area. He said JFK has an antibiotic stewardship that tracks and compares the use of antibiotics.

Last winter, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took action to phase out the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in cows, pigs and chickens. The FDA’s guidelines asked the industry not to use antibiotics for growth promotion but permitted their use for routine disease prevention with a veterinary prescription. The allowance created a loophole that lets animal producers keep using the same low doses of antibiotics by contending that they are needed to keep animals from getting sick and evading the new ban on use for growth promotion.

Petrie approached the Edison Township Council on June 25, encouraging officials to pass a resolution supporting legislation that calls for a ban on feeding antibiotics to healthy animals, which she said occurs every day.

She said she spoke to Councilman Sudhanshu Prasad about the matter, and Township Attorney William Northgrave said he was aware of the issue and was curious if the American Medical Association or other health organizations have opined on the matter. Petrie said she did not know if they had.

Dozens of municipalities across the state, including Red Bank, Secaucus and Highland Park, have already passed resolutions supporting the legislation.

Jim Walsh, New Jersey director of Food & Water Watch, said stopping the abuse of antibiotics would help to ensure that medicines work when needed.

Pinkin introduced the legislation on June 16, and it was referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee for consideration. State Sen. Peter J. Barnes (DMiddlesex) has introduced SCR122, a Senate version of the measure.

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