Senate bars school lunch program from purchasing chickens treated with Cipro-like drugs

The United States Senate approved a measure that would prohibit the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from purchasing chickens for the school lunch program that have been treated with the cipro-like antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones. The amendment to the 2004 Agriculture appropriations bill, offered by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), is the first time the Senate has addressed the overuse of medically important antibiotics in agriculture. The Agriculture bill passed last night.

Fluoroquinolones are doctors’ first choice in treating severe food poisoning in humans. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed to withdraw the use of fluoroquinolones in poultry because it contributes to increasing numbers of people becoming infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

“Children are at a greater risk to suffer from food poisoning and infections from antibiotic resistant bacteria,” said Tamar Barlam, M.D., director of the antibiotic resistance project at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). “Even McDonald’s and Wendy’s have forced their suppliers to phase out fluoroquinolones. There’s no reason that school lunch program should lag behind the fast-food industry on this important public health issue.”

Several major chicken producers like Tyson, Gold Kist, and Perdue have committed to stop using fluoroquinolones in their chickens. Legislation offered by Representative Sherrod Brown (D-OH) would also prohibit USDA from buying fluoroquinolone-treated chicken for the school lunch program.