A new California law puts the toughest regulations yet on the use of antibiotics with farm animals in the United States. The legislation was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown last Saturday.

The law was created because of concern that the rise of antibiotic-resistant super bacteria is the result of farmers overusing antibiotics. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 2 million people are sickened by antibiotic resistant bacteria each year and as many as 23,000 are killed by it.

Some Animal Antibiotics Can Be Bought Over the Counter

In spite of these figures, some antibiotics can be bought in the United States without a prescription if they are intended for animals. These antibiotics are often used to treat animal illness but they are also used to prevent illnesses in perfectly healthy animals to promote food growth.

As the number of humans infected with antibiotic resistant superbugs continues to rise, more and more consumer health advocates are criticizing the use of antibiotics on chickens, pigs and cattle. These advocates are demanding new legislation like this one in California to limit its use.

California Has Third Most Valuable Meat Products in the Country

Among the different states, California farm animal products (including eggs, milk, meat and more) rank third in value, so there is a lot of incentive to create legislation to protect its value and reputation in the state. The new legislation will begin restricting the use of antibiotics in 2018. California farmers will no longer be able to use them as a preventative measure or as a way to fatten animals. The new law is also intended to end the sale of livestock antibiotics over the counter. All animal antibiotics will need to be ordered by a veterinarian.

Finally, under the legislation, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will need to monitor the sale and use of antibiotics. The CDFA will gather information about antibiotic usage on livestock and use it to refine its regulatory practices.