San Francisco and Berkeley Take a Stand to Protect Antibiotics

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Food & Water Watch and public health advocates applaud the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Berkeley City Council September 9 actions passing resolutions calling on Congress to protect public health by passing national legislation to stop the unnecessary use of antibiotics on factory farms. San Francisco is the first major city and the first county in California to pass such a resolution.

“In the twenty-first century,” says Supervisor John Avalos, who sponsored the resolution, “we must not allow infections we learned how to cure in the twentieth century to once again become life-threatening. San Francisco is a public health leader and I am pleased the Board has taken this important step urging Congress to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics.”

“Berkeley stands proudly with San Francisco and a growing number of Bay Area communities that want antibiotics to keep working for people,” says Berkeley City Council Member Kriss Worthington. “I hope communities throughout California will join us in sending this message to Congress.”

Eighty percent of antibiotics used in the United States are administered on factory farms to animals that aren’t sick. This overuse of antibiotics creates “superbugs”—bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.

“Twenty-three thousand people die each year in the United States from antibiotic resistant infections,” says Tia Lebherz, Food & Water Watch Northern California organizer. “The public and elected leaders must take action to keep antibiotics working for people. I commend the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Berkeley City Council for recognizing the urgency of this situation and taking the lead in California.”

Food & Water Watch, which works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable, has worked with more than twenty U.S. cities to pass resolutions in support of national legislation to stop the use of unnecessary antibiotics in livestock.

Specifically, the resolutions urge Congress to pass HR 11509, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) and S 1256, the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA). Emeryville and Fairfax have also passed resolutions and other California cities are expected to do so in the coming months.

“This is about political courage,” says Dr. Michael Martin, an MD with University of California San Francisco. “Agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies are literally nursing bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance. There is no medical uncertainty that we must stop it. We must not allow these corporate interests to squander antibiotics, the most effective weapons we have against deadly bacterial infections.”

Dr. Sapna Thottathil of Health Care Without Harm and Physicians for Social Responsibility says that an increasing number of physicians and hospitals are responding to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

“More doctors are avoiding antibiotics as a first resort to treat, for example, ear infections in young children and infants,” says Thottathil, “and some hospitals are refusing to serve meat from animals given antibiotics. It is a tragic irony that, even as the medical profession takes these steps, antibiotics continue to be used in a lax manner in food animal production. That is why we need federal legislation like PAMPTA and PARA to regulate industrial agriculture.”

Contact: Sandra Lupien, Food & Water Watch, 510-922-0705, slupien(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.