The Coalition for Animal Health is voicing its opposition to HR 1549, “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009,” which was discussed at a House of Representatives Rules Committee hearing last week.

The bill would change two key areas: “Critical Antimicrobial Animal Drugs” and “Nontherapeutic Use” as they pertain to animal health, according to the American Meat Institute (AMI).

The bill also rescinds the approval of seven “critical antimicrobial animal drugs” unless the sponsor demonstrates a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health from the development of antimicrobial resistance from “nontherapeutic” use of the drug.

The coalition urges Congress to reject this bill on the grounds it will jeopardize the industry’s ability to protect animal health, animal welfare and the food supply because it lacks scientific basis for its rationale.

“We oppose the bill because we are opposed to legislative bans of important animal health medicines that have been approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration,” the coalition stated in a letter to House Committee on Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Ranking Member David Dreier (R-CA). “One of our central goals is to contribute to public health by providing safe and healthful meat products. We need healthy animals, and the tools to keep animals healthy, to meet that goal.”

The coalition points out there are five public and private programs that provide layers of protection to ensure antibiotics keep animals healthy without harming public health, the letter states. Protective layers include: a strong approval process, post-approval risk assessments, food safety monitoring and surveillance, responsible use programs and pathogen-reduction programs.

Related legislation to ban subtherapeutic or routine use of antibiotics in livestock has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate, according to Jennifer Greiner, DVM, director of science and technology for the National Pork Producer’s Council. Greiner says a ban on antibiotic growth promoters would cost pork producers about $6/head in the first year and add up to over $1 billion in losses over 10 years.

Similar action that resulted in a ban on the use of antibiotics to prevent disease in the European Union has resulted in a large increase in animal disease and antibiotics to treat that disease. Recently published literature shows resistance patterns in humans have rarely declined as a result of this action.