California is expected to become the first U.S. state to pass legislation where farm animals can only be given human antibiotics if they’re actually sick, or at serious risk of getting sick, rather than as a growth stimulant.

The proposed legislation is currently before California governor Jerry Brown after being approved by the State senate and assembly.

Experts say that according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) figures, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the US are sold to the agriculture sector.and used routinely to prevent disease, but more commonly to help plump up livestock. Problems occur when antibiotics are given when they’re not needed for health concerns, creating an environment that makes it easier for bacteria to become antibiotic resistant.

The FDA released guidelines in 2013 in an attempt to curb the use of human antibiotics in food production, asking drug companies to voluntarily stop listing medically-important antibiotics as growth promoters. Under Federal law, veterinarians can only prescribe antibiotics for listed conditions. The experts say that even if drug companies only listed antibiotics for disease prevention, it would leave the door open for potential abuse as there doesn’t have to be any specific risk of disease in order to administer antibiotics. The proposed California legislation will close all such loopholes.

Antibiotic advocacy groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Food Safety are applauding the pending Californian law.

Director of governmental affairs for the Environmental Working Group Bill Allayaud says, “It is tremendous that California will lead the way on this critical issue for Californians, Americans, and indeed the world, as the FDA fiddles while Rome burns.”

The Experts say that although the proposed California law would be leading the way for US regulators, its introduction comes years after other countries like Denmark, which banned antibiotics as growth hormones in the 1990s.

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