Among its many firsts, Bon Appétit Management Company was the first food service company to address the issue of antibiotic overuse in the meat supply. We don’t serve chicken, turkey, or hamburgers from animals that have been raised with the routine use of antibiotics in their feed or water, which is the default for most of the poultry, hog, and beef industries. CEO Fedele Bauccio, who served on the Pew Commission for Industrial Farm Animal Production, has several times briefed Congress and Capitol Hill staffers on why it’s urgent that the government safeguard these drugs that were developed to treat human illness.
Yesterday, the Food and Environment Reporting Network‘s Maryn McKenna broke the story on ABC News that more than 8 million American women are at risk of recurrent bladder infections because of the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture. McKenna wrote about a McGill University study that found that the E. coli responsible for bladder infections closely matches the bacteria found in retail chicken — and those bacteria have a high level of resistance. The cost of treating the disease is estimated at $1 billion annually.
Human bladder infections are just one of the latest public health side effects to come to light. The rampage of “superbugs” like MRSA through hospitals has long been linked to antibiotic overuse in agriculture. The vast majority of the drugs are added to feed and water to promote growth and to prevent diseases that could be decreased through other means, like not raising animals in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions.
Tomorrow, on July 13, the FDA will close its comment period on its draft guidance for industry, which asked meat producers to voluntarily phase out routine use of antibiotics that are vital for human health. Bon Appétit Management Company has already submitted a statement to the agency urging it to directly regulate antibiotics in agriculture and limit their application to treating animals that are actively sick, which is currently estimated at just 6 percent of all drugs used.
We’ve asked several small and mid-size meat producers with whom we work to submit comments. Here’s where you too can do so.