Maryland’s Keep Antibiotics Effective Act Goes Into Law without Governor’s Signature

Maryland becomes second state to ban the routine use of antibiotics on farms.

ANNAPOLIS, MD. — The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act (SB422/HB602) has gone into law without a signature from Governor Larry Hogan, making Maryland the second state in the country after California to meaningfully address the widespread misuse of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. The new law will prohibit the routine use of antibiotics on animals that are not sick, a practice public health experts say can fuel the spread of drug resistant bacteria.

The Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working, a coalition of advocacy organizations, public health professionals, farmers, and business owners, call it a major win for public health. 

“Maryland’s action to protect antibiotics sets the example for other states to follow,” said Emily Scarr, Director of Maryland PIRG. “We hope more states, retailers, and producers will now become inspired to protect public health by taking action to restrict use of antibiotics on farms.”

Public health experts including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that if we don’t stop the overuse of antibiotics in both healthcare and agriculture the drugs may stop working altogether.

Approximately 70% of human use antibiotics distributed in the U.S. are sold for use on food animals. In many cases, the drugs are given to otherwise healthy animals on a routine basis to prevent disease brought on by crowded, unsanitary conditions.

The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act will do away with some of the worst misuse of these precious medicines and limit antibiotic use to treat sick animals or to control a verified disease outbreak. 

The laws in Maryland and California go much further than federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines, which seek to prohibit the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals but do nothing to stop the routine use of antibiotics for disease prevention purposes.

“Maryland lawmakers looked at the FDA guidelines and said ‘we need to do better,” said Matthew Wellington, Program Director for U.S. PIRG’s Antibiotics Program. “If we’re going to keep antibiotics effective and protect public health, more states should take action where the FDA has fallen short, and ultimately we’ll need the FDA to catch up.”

“Antibiotics are our last defense against life threatening infections,”said Dr. Pat McLaine, a registered nurse and member of the Maryland Nurses Association. “This new law will help protect Marylanders from antibiotic-resistant infections and save our precious antibiotics for times when they are needed most.” 

“Combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a national security priority, and an area where healthcare professionals are working tirelessly to minimize inappropriate antibiotic use for patients that don’t need them” said Emily L. Heil, PharmD, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice and science at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. “However, with the vast majority of antibiotic consumption actually occurring in food producing animals, human stewardship efforts can only help so much.  This bill will make Maryland a leader for other states in ensuring that antibiotics are used appropriately in agriculture.”

The new law is a major win for protecting the efficacy of antibiotics in Maryland and across the country. Other states should follow the lead and eliminate routine antibiotic use on farm animals.


U.S. PIRG is a federation of state based groups that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. For decades, we’ve stood up for consumers, countering the influence of big banks, insurers, chemical manufacturers and other powerful special interests.

Maryland PIRG is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.  

The Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working is made up of healthcare, public health, environmental, consumer, and animal welfare organizations, individuals, and companies working together to stop the misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture.