Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) says that Rep. Louise Slaughter’s comments that banning certain use of antibiotics in animals is necessary is more than a little off base.

Responding to a guest commentary that Slaughter (D-NY) wrote last month in a Missouri publication, Luetkemeyer says there are a number of false claims perpetuated by the New York congresswoman:

--Antibiotics are overused in livestock production. Livestock producers use antibiotics responsibly and judiciously to keep their animals healthy and only after their veterinarians run diagnostics to determine the presence of pathogens that can cause diseases.

--Rep. Slaughter’s bill, Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, would simply prohibit “nontherapeutic” use of antibiotics. “In fact, her bill would ban antibiotics used to prevent or control animal diseases,” Luetkemeyer says.

The Denmark experience shows that if antibiotics used to prevent diseases are banned, animal diseases and deaths will rise. With more illness, producers will need to use larger amounts of antibiotics to treat the resulting diseases.

Proper use of antibiotics keeps America’s food supply safe, abundant and cheap through farmer’s efforts to keep livestock free of disease, the Missouri congressman says.

In contrast, an antibiotics ban similar to the one implemented by Denmark would cost more than $700 million over 10 years for the U.S. pork industry alone, according to a 2003 study by the American Agricultural Economics Association.

A 2008 study by Iowa State University shows that eliminating antibiotics that boost growth promotion and feed efficiency would cost pork producers $6/head and lead to a roughly $1.1 billion loss to the industry over 10 years.

“As for the matter of antibiotics and trade, this issue has been used by some U.S. trading partners to restrict our exports. There’s no science behind their claims that animal antibiotics are causing problems because none exists. The United States has the safest food supply in the world thanks, in part, to the responsible and judicious use of antibiotics to keep animals healthy. It would be extremely unwise to restrict or eliminate their use because of some unfounded assertion that they are contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans,” Luetkemeyer emphasizes.

He asks whether consumers would rather eat meat from animals that were kept healthy through responsible antibiotic use or from animals that were sick because they were denied preventive antibiotics. To that point, another Iowa State University study found that hogs that were sick during their lifetime had higher incidences of food-borne pathogens.