New Maryland Law Prohibits Routine Use of Antibiotics on Farms

Keep Antibiotics Effective Act makes Maryland the second state to restrict agricultural use of antibiotics

Annapolis, Md – The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act (SB422/HB602) will become law without a signature from Governor Larry Hogan, making Maryland the second state in the country after California to meaningfully address the widespread misuse of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. The new law will prohibit the routine use of antibiotics on animals that are not sick, a practice public health experts say can fuel the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.

The Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working, a coalition of healthcare and public health professionals, advocacy organizations, farmers and business owners, celebrated the news as a major victory for public health, but expressed frustration that Governor Hogan did not sign the bill.

    See: Pharma Cos. Try To Block Maryland Bill To Stem Unnecessary Antibiotics On Farms

“Antibiotics are our last defense against life threatening infections,” said Dr. Pat McLaine, a registered nurse and member of the Maryland Nurses Association. “This new law will help protect Marylanders from antibiotic-resistant infections and save our precious antibiotics for times when they are needed most.”

“An overwhelming bipartisan majority of the General Assembly supported this bill and sent it to Governor Hogan’s desk – we are deeply disappointed he did not sign it,” said Mae Wu, senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The Hogan Administration should be by our side, fighting the spread of dangerous antibiotics resistance in Maryland. We will be watching to make sure this important legislation is properly implemented to protect public health in Maryland.”

Public health experts including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that the overuse of antibiotics in both healthcare and agriculture could jeopardize the effectiveness of many vital drugs.

The Maryland law goes much further than federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, which seek to prohibit the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals but do nothing to stop the routine use of antibiotics for disease prevention purposes.

“Maryland lawmakers rightly chose to go beyond the modest FDA guidelines,” said Emily Scarr, Director of Maryland PIRG. “But Maryland can’t solve this problem alone.”

“If we’re going to keep antibiotics effective and protect public health, we need more states, retailers, and producers to become inspired to protect public health by taking action to restrict use of antibiotics on farms,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake and founder of the Fair Farms campaign.

Approximately 70% of human-use antibiotics distributed in the U.S. are actually sold for use on animals. In many cases, the drugs are routinely given to animals that are not sick to prevent disease created by crowded, unsanitary conditions. The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act will reduce misuse of these precious medicines and limit antibiotic use to treat sick animals or to control a verified disease outbreak.

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The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Paul Pinsky (District 22) and the House of Delegates bill was sponsored by Del. Shane Robinson (District 39). The provisions in the Act are required beginning January 1, 2018.

The Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working is a coalition of advocacy organizations, public health professionals, farmers, and business owners with a mission to protect public health from the widespread overuse and misuse of antibiotics in industrial meat production. The massive routine use of antibiotics on animals accelerates the development of drug-resistant bacteria, which can find their way into our communities through our food, air, and water. We support action to protect antibiotics as a critical tool to treat patients and save lives. 

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