SB 27 has currently passed both houses of the California legislature, and is waiting on action from the governor, Jerry Brown.
The bill, introduced by US Senator Jerry Hill, prohibits meat producers from routinely using medically important antimicrobials in livestock unless they have a prescription from a veterinarian to treat a disease or infection or to prevent disease provided the use is not routine.
It also requires the California Department of Food and Agriculture to gather information on the use of such drugs in meat production to track how they are being used.
If signed into law by Brown, SB 27 would see California as having the toughest limits to date on the overuse of antibiotics in livestock in the US, said the public interest group, Consumers Union.
Producers or veterinarians caught violating the bill would be subject to a fine of up to $250 a day for the period of violation. Each subsequent incident could include a $500 per day fine.
Michael Hansen, senior scientist with the Consumers Union, told us the main difference between the FDA voluntary phase out of the use of medically important antimicrobials for growth promotion and feed efficiency use and California’s bill SB 27 is that the FDA guidance is not mandatory. "Whereas, SB 27, if signed by Governor Brown, would be law," he said.
The FDA is seeking an end to the use of certain antibiotics by 2017 in livestock production, but by voluntary means. In June 2014, the agency said all drug companies were fully engaged with this strategy.
“The California bill includes a prohibition on the use of medically important antibiotics ‘in a regular pattern’ for prevention - a limitation which is not in the FDA guidance,” added Hansen.
SB 27 would end the usage of medically important antimicrobial drugs for weight gain or to boost feed efficiency, counsel wrote in the bill digest.
‘A medically important antimicrobial drug may be used when, in the professional judgement of a licensed veterinarian, the medically important antimicrobial drug is any of the following: necessary to treat a disease or infection; necessary to control the spread of a disease or infection; or necessary in relation to surgery or a medical procedure,’ states the legislation.
Veto of earlier version of bill
California's Governor Brown vetoed an earlier version of the bill last year, which he said would have just serve to codify US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance on growth promoter phase out.
"Codifying these standards is unnecessary since most major animal producers have already pledged to go beyond the FDA standard," he said in November 2014.
In recent weeks, however, Brown’s administration worked with Senator Hill to amend SB 27 to limit the use of antibiotics for disease prevention, and those changes prompted Consumers Union to support its final passage.
SB 27 would still permit the prophylactic use of medically important antimicrobials to ‘address an elevated risk of contraction of a particular disease or infection.’
Justin Oldfield, vice president of governmental affairs for the California Cattlemen’s Association told us the trade group supported the requirements of SB 27 regarding the prophylactic use of antibiotics because it codifies that prevention is a valid use. “That is a positive thing about the bill,” he added.
That association had requested the bill not take effect until 2018 as a way to give rural producers times to establish the veterinary relationships needed for that change and medical access points especially in emergency situations.
Noelle Cremers, policy specialist with the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), said that group also welcomed the fact that the bill allows for preventative use of antibiotics.
“Treating preventively is extremely important and can save animals from suffering and save animals lives, and we’re pleased to see that was recognized,” she said.
Moreover, she said the CFBF said it was pleased to see the emphasis on monitoring antibiotic resistance, instead of only focusing on use.
“The governor and the author of the bill have been interested California taking a leadership role in antibiotic resistance (monitoring) and this bill does that, and it’s important for producers in other states to be aware of what’s going here and what’s proposed in the bill,” added Cremers.
The bill also proposes that the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Veterinary Medical Board, the State Department of Public Health, state universities and cooperative extension officials would create stewardship guidelines for use of antibiotics in livestock.
‘The guidelines shall include scientifically validated practical alternatives to the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs, including, but not limited to, the introduction of effective vaccines and good hygiene and management practices,’ stated the legislation.
The bill suggests the stewardship guidelines should include work to limit use of medically important antibiotics to ‘treat, control, and, in some cases, prevent, disease,’ and have the most appropriate drug and method used for the shortest amount of time needed and have the fewest animals treated as possible.
Additionally, officials said that work should be done with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue documentation of resistant bacteria in accordance with the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.
State officials also would collect information on the sales and usage of medically important antibiotics, antibiotic resistant bacteria and livestock management procedures but not be “duplicative of the National Animal Health Monitoring System and the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System,” officials said in the bill.
The groups should work, they said, with willing participants to include representative samples from livestock sectors, different regions of the state and parts of the food production system, as well as producers, veterinarians and stakeholders.
Also veterinary-client-patient confidentially laws should be respected, they said. Information provided should be kept confidential and not released, other than to the Veterinary Medical Board, unless it is combined so that individuals cannot be identified.
The bill can be read here.