The Olympia City Council passed a resolution Tuesday that supports a nationwide ban on the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics on factory farms.
The goal is to halt the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the food supply. These bacteria often come from livestock that are routinely fed antibiotics in order to prevent diseases caused by crowded and unsanitary conditions on farms. This practice is known as “nontherapeutic.”
As a result, the resistant bacteria can contaminate food and infect people. One common example is salmonella.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that at least 2 million people in the U.S. become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, and at least 23,000 people die from these infections.
“Resistant bacteria may be transmitted to humans through the foods we eat,” the CDC website says. “Preserving the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs is vital to protecting human and animal health.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Stephen Buxbaum also said he would send a short letter to Sen. Patty Murray that urges her to co-sponsor the Prevention of Antibiotics Resistance Act, known as PARA.
Several citizens had addressed the council the previous week to solicit support for a resolution similar to the one passed by Seattle in 2014.
TJ Johnson, a local food activist and former council member, said the resolution is consistent with portions of the city’s comprehensive plan that call for promoting health and wellness.
“It’s a step toward protecting the public health of our community,” Johnson said at the Feb. 3 meeting.
Victoria Leistman, an Olympia-based field organizer for Food and Water Watch, said the nonprofit organization’s next goal is to persuade Thurston County to adopt a similar resolution. Organizers are hoping that Sen. Murray will co-sponsor PARA in 2016 and ultimately approve a nationwide ban on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock.
“Washington is really a focus for this campaign because Sen. Murray has so much clout as to where the federal legislation stands,” Leistman told The Olympian, noting the concurrent push for a statewide ban.
Olympia is the 51st city in the country and second city in the state to pass a resolution supporting the ban, Leistman said.
“We’re really thrilled to see that the Olympia City Council has taken action on this issue,” she said. “This is an issue that is affecting public health everywhere.”