California has adopted the toughest limits in the nation on the use of antibiotics in healthy livestock, barring their routine use to prevent illness or promote growth.
Gov. Jerry Brown announced Saturday he signed the legislation. The bill, SB 27, will curb the overuse of antibiotics in livestock, which limits the effectiveness of the medicines in both animals and people and contributes to the spread of dangerous, drug-resistant superbugs.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls antibiotic resistance one of the world’s most pressing health problems and estimates that 23,000 Americans die annually as a result of antibiotic-resistant infections.
The agency has recommended phasing out their use in cases solely to promote growth in livestock. In low doses, some antibiotics can generate greater muscle development by boosting the efficiency of food that animals eat.
Supporters of the legislation by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, say the antibiotics are fed to mostly healthy animals such as cows, pigs and chickens to make them grow faster and prevent disease in crowded industrial farms.
Widespread use of antibiotics by humans and animals reduce their effectiveness in treating illnesses because the diseases adapt by mutating, creating superbugs. Once-treatable illnesses can become dangerous infections when antibiotics are no longer effective.
“The lifesaving potential of antibiotics is quickly diminishing, and people are dying because the drugs are less effective,” Hill said in a statement.
Opponents argued that the California legislation does not go far enough to restrict preventive or routine use of antimicrobial drugs. Groups such as the California Cattlemen’s Association remained neutral on the bill.
Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Cons