California sets strictest U.S. standards for antibiotics use in livestock

On Oct. 10, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that prohibits the use of antibiotics for fattening up farm animals and that requires the drugs to be prescribed by licensed veterinarians. It is the most restrictive law to date in the U.S. aimed at stemming the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections.

The law comes amid a major push by the USDA, FDA and other government agencies to halt the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production. The implementation of the bill, which goes into effect in January 2018, will be happening as many retailers and large restaurant chains, including Subway and McDonald's ($MCD), are stopping their sales of some meats that are produced with antibiotics.

In addition to restricting the use of the drugs, the new bill requires the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to collect information on antibiotics use on farms, and to develop best practices, according to Reuters. California ranks third in the nation in the value of its milk, meat and eggs.

The California bill was signed just days after the USDA, FDA and CDC kicked off a series of public meetings aimed at devising ways to collect data about antibiotics use in food production. The agencies hope to publish their first report in 2018, and they're taking comments from the public on proposed data-collection methods until Nov. 30 of this year.

Food safety advocates--many of whom have criticized the federal government for not doing enough to stem antibiotics use--cheered the new California law.

"We don't give antibiotics regularly to humans who aren't sick and we shouldn't be giving them to animals that aren't sick either," said Jason Pfeifle, a public health advocate with the California Public Interest Research Group, in a press release from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "Despite the steady rise in antibiotic-resistant infections, neither Congress nor the Obama Administration has taken meaningful action to stop this dangerous practice on factory farms. With these new restrictions on regular antibiotic use in meat production, our medicine is more likely to work when we need it."

- read more at Reuters
- here's the NRDC press release