August 17, 2015

Warren, Feinstein, and Gillibrand Renew Request for Information on Efforts to Combat Antibiotic Overuse in Animals

Senators send follow-up letter to Co-Chairs of Interagency Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria after receiving no formal response to their December 2014 letter

WASHINGTON, DC -- United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today sent a letter to Secretaries Burwell, Vilsack, and Carter, co-chairs of the Interagency Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, renewing their request for information on how the Task Force plans to address critical gaps in current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policies to address the public health threat posed by the overuse of antibiotics in food animals. The senators initially wrote to the Task Force co-chairs in December 2014, but have not received a formal response to their inquiries.

"We are extremely disappointed that we have not received a formal response from your office," the senators wrote. "Antibiotic-resistant bacteria present a major public health threat and public health experts agree that antibiotic resistance stems not only from antibiotic use in human medicine, but also from use in animals."

In today's letter, the Senators ask the Task Force co-chairs to provide a response to their previous questions within 30 days. They also urge the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to appoint at least three experts who understand the link between the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture and public health, and who do not have a conflicting business interest, to the 30-member Presidential Advisory Council on Combatting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

"Representatives from industrial animal producers associations and the veterinary drug industry have publically voiced doubts about the need to reduce antibiotic use in animals and about the impact that the FDA's policies will have on the amount of drugs used. However, public health experts agree that the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is a critical contributor to antibiotic resistance. These experts need to have a seat at the table," wrote the senators.

Read the full text of the letter here.