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The European Parliament adopted a law that will restrict the use of antibiotics in food-producing livestock, a long-awaited step in an ongoing effort to reduce antibiotic resistance in humans.

Under the new rules, routine use of antibiotics will be prohibited for preventing disease, although the medicines will be permitted for healthy animals in certain circumstances, such as following surgery, or when only some animals in an entire group happen to be sick. In that instance, antibiotics would be allowed in hopes of avoiding the spread of an infection or disease. The law goes into effect in early 2019.


At issue is the extent to which antibiotics are given to food-producing livestock for preventing disease or promoting weight gain. Bulking up livestock makes the animals better suited for increased production but can also encourage unnecessary antibiotic use.

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