HANFORD — The latest bill from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., isn’t winning friends in the San Joaquin Valley’s livestock community.
Feinstein’s bill, introduced last week, would require Kings County dairy and turkey farmers to prove that they are using antibiotics only when the animals are actually sick, not to ward off potential illness or to make the animals gain weight.
The senator is concerned that pumping too many antibiotics into livestock could help create so-called superbugs — microbes that are resistant to multiple types of antibiotics.
Feinstein in a press release cited a recent study that found nearly 50 percent of grocery store meat contaminated with drug-resistant pathogens.
But there’s plenty of skepticism about whether Feinstein’s bill is justified.
Kings County Health Officer Michael Mac Lean noted that antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria are a growing problem among humans, but he said he wasn’t aware of any study linking that to the use of antibiotics in livestock animals.
“The general principle is, we are moving toward a place as a society, that many organisms we used to be able to treat, we are no longer able to treat,” he said. “We need to cut back on the amount we are using in humans.”
Diane Friend, Kings County Farm Bureau executive director, pointed to standards already in place that test for pathogens in meat destined for the human food supply.
“This bill is just very overreaching legislation that disregards what our agencies are doing already,” Friend said.
Hanford dairyman Dino Giacomazzi said he hasn’t seen any correlation between the use of antibiotics in animals and increased resistance in human pathogens.
Giacomazzi blamed doctors over-prescribing antibiotics to patients that may not need them and consumers putting antibacterial ingredients in everything from dish soap to hand sanitizer.
“That’s more than likely where antibiotic resistance is coming from — humans not following antibiotic protocol,” he said.
“I personally haven’t heard of any [dairy operators] using antibiotics as a prophylactic,” said Hanford dairy operator Joe Machado. “It’s just another case of big brother telling us how to run our businesses.”
The Feinstein bill is similar to a bill proposed by former state Sen. Dean Florez in 2009 which went down to defeat. That bill would have gradually outlawed the use of preventative antibiotics in any livestock that goes into the human food supply.
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