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Rep. Louise Slaughter On Antibiotics, Meat And Superbugs

In our second hour today, we talked about our antibiotics, our meat and our superbugs. If ever there was a miracle drug, a medicine that changed our lives, it is the antibiotic. Precious stuff, right? "Husband it! Use with care!" So you’d think.

But 80 percent of all the antibiotics we pump out these days goes into animals and animal feed — cows, hogs, chickens, turkeys and more across America, chowing down daily on antibiotics in their feed. To make them grow faster. To allow them to live in crowded conditions. Health officials are clanging the alarm bell, saying that is overuse that is breeding antibiotic-resistant superbugs that we can’t stop, that kill. The meat industry says, “chill out.”

Even our hour wasn’t enough, more wrinkles in the complex story — that goes from pharmaceutical companies to the barn to the grocery store to homes and hospitals — than we could get to. There were some great callers who never made it on air, and our guests had more great points to make than they could get to.

You can listen to the full show here, but our guest, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), set the tone right out of the gate, saying Americans should be much more alarmed than they are:

Studies have shown people would be willing to pay 5 cents more a pound to get rid of [antibiotics in animal feed]. We have to get rid of that! Look, what’s the option? We just go ahead and let all antibiotics [become] unusable? That we could reach a point where strep throat could be a fatal disease? Do we want to go to that? … We are destroying one of the greatest medical breakthroughs that we are enjoying the benefit from. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Slaughter says the big agricultural farms are the biggest obstacle because they can get a few extra pounds of meat — and profit — by putting antibiotics in animal feed. She also blames the FDA for not regulating the meat industry.

She says she been trying for many years to get bills passed into law requiring disclosure from big farms as to what they are feeding their livestock, and banning eight different antibiotics key to human health out of animal feed. How close is she to getting her bills passed?  “Nowhere,” Slaughter said.

What does she want? “I want [Speaker] John Boehner to put [the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act] on the floor.”

Listen here to Slaughter on On Point:

This program aired on April 4, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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