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Hospitals Say "No" to Meat Raised With Antibiotics

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Under the guidance of physicians and foodservice staff alike, UCSF's Academic Senate unanimously approved a resolution to phase out the procurement of meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics and urged all ten University of California campuses to do

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JL A (281)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 10:42 am
Hospitals Say “No” to Meat Raised with Antibiotics
By Sapna Thottathil, Lucia Sayre and Kendra Klein on May 20, 2013

On April 8, the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center stepped into the debate about antibiotic use in animal agriculture. Under the guidance of physicians and foodservice staff alike, UCSF’s Academic Senate unanimously approved a resolution to phase out the procurement of meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics and urged all ten University of California campuses to do the same. This resolution is not just a symbolic decision – serving over 650,000 meals per year to patients, staff, and the community, and with a food budget of close to $7 million, UCSF and its food purchasing choices have the power to send a strong message to the market and to policymakers.

“There is overwhelming scientific consensus that overuse of antibiotics in livestock is a health hazard to people,” said Dr. Thomas Newman, a member of the Academic Senate who spearheaded the resolution with the help of the non-profit San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is in good company. Independent experts ranging from the World Health Organization to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences agree that the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture cultivates antibiotic-resistant bacteria, threatening the long-term efficacy of antibiotics for human use.

Two-thirds of the drugs that animals in our food supply get in their feed and water, from penicillins to macrolides, might sound familiar to anyone who has been to the hospital recently. In fact, eighty percent of all of the antibiotics sold in the U.S., almost 30 million pounds on an annual basis, are used for meat production. The majority are given to otherwise healthy animals in order to promote faster growth and to compensate for unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions.

“We believe that health care is best positioned to lead our society away from its addiction to antibiotics in animal agriculture,” said Gary Cohen, President of the non-profit organization Health Care Without Harm. He added: “Hospitals have both the mission-critical rationale and the economic clout.” Health Care Without Harm works to leverage both health care’s healing mission and purchasing power on a range of sustainable food issues, from organic production to local food purchasing. UCSF is one of over 440 hospitals across the country that have signed Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, which states that healthy food must come from a food system that is ecologically-sustainable, economically-viable, and socially-just.

However, hospitals attempting to purchase sustainable food face serious supply chain challenges. In the case of meat produced with non-therapeutic antibiotics, the market to date has been small in the U.S., making these products costly. For now, UCSF is taking a two-pronged approach to procurement. “We have reduced the amount of red meat being served,” stated Jack Henderson, Associate Director of Nutrition and Food Services at UCSF, “And secondly, we are pursuing a source of beef that is grass-fed, raised without non-therapeutic antibiotics, and that still fits within our budget. It is a complex maneuver, but we believe it is the right thing to do for our patients, our staff, and our visitors.”

Health Care Without Harm is working with nearly 100 other hospitals nationwide that have committed to this “less meat, better meat” approach. Leading the pack is Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vermont which created a long-term antibiotics reduction plan in 2005. Currently, close to 100 percent of Fletcher Allen’s beef has been raised without non-therapeutic antibiotics, and the hospital hopes that all of its chicken will soon meet this standard. Fletcher Allen estimates that its food service budget rose by $75,000 when it switched to a line of chicken products raised without the routine use of antibiotics. The cost of treating a patient infected with a resistant bacterial infection like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), however, is not far off.

While purchasing initiatives by hospitals can generate much-needed market demand, smarter shopping alone cannot solve agriculture’s role in the antibiotic resistance crisis. A true and comprehensive solution will only come when federal policy bans the routine, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock production. Unfortunately, there have been minimal public policy gains in this arena. The only policy in place is a 2012 guidance document from the Food and Drug Administration that asks the livestock and pharmaceutical industries to voluntarily reduce the consumption and sales of antibiotics in favor of more “prudent” use.

The most comprehensive policy under consideration is the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). PAMTA would ban eight classes of medically-important antibiotics from non-therapeutic use in animal agriculture. Along with Health Care Without Harm, more than 300 organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association, stand behind the bill. However, due to lobbying pressure from pharmaceutical companies and agribusiness, keen on continuing the injudicious use of antibiotics to speed up the pace of meat production and earn profits, PAMTA has failed to pass in Congress three times since 2007.

As hospitals like UCSF push for change in the market, demanding that we put public health ahead of profit, Congress and the FDA should take note and act, before medicine’s wonder drugs become a thing of the past.

Kit B (276)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 11:01 am

Congress should take note and lead the nation in this effort to ban antibiotics from all food stuff. Because it is not labeled, people don't know. Not that I expect to see this from a Congress that votes strongly for the protections of Monsanto over the health and well being of the people.

Christeen Anderson (371)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 11:03 am
Good for them. Thank you.

Debbie G (306)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 11:46 am
This is good news. I wish restaurants would follow suit. We consumers can protect ourselves by asking the butcher at the grocery store if they sell meat without antibiotics given to the animals, and asking if you want to buy meat that doesn't say antibiotic-free.

Terry V (30)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 12:44 pm
Many of us are now ALLERGIC to most antibiotics because of this problem along with the Heart Association for insisting people with mitral valve prolapse, etc. take LARGE dosages of an antibiotic for simply going to the dentist and for ALL surgeries.

JL A (281)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 12:53 pm
You are welcome Christeen.
You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last day.

Kit B (276)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 1:08 pm

I wish that were true Debbie. Beyond stating that the meat is from a ranch that raises them on grass, most stores have no idea if that meat is actually grass fed nor free of antibiotics. Just as most stores can not prove that an ear of corn being sold as organic is truly organic. We just do not have universal standards or requirements for honest reporting of that information.

JL A (281)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 1:12 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 2:00 pm
Certainly one of the most shameful and scandalous actions by Big Pharma... 80%-unbelievable!
I'm afraid Kit is right, no chance of this path for the general public. So if you want to eat meat and have it free of antibiotics, get sick and go to that hospital

Past Member (0)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 2:02 pm
All food has to state what it contains so it should say whether it contains antibiotics Its hypocrital of the laws governing the labelling of food In other words they only tell you what they want you to know

Noted thanks

JL A (281)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 2:22 pm
You are welcome Carol.
LOL Angelika!You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last day.
You cannot currently send a star to Carol because you have done so within the last day.

Laura H (964)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 3:31 pm
Hospitals should say "no' to meat-PERIOD.

Michelle M (68)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 4:56 pm
Its only logical. Great news. Thanx JL.

Sunday June 9, 2013, 5:18 pm
read and noted on 6-9-13 it sure seems that the state of California is taking charge of a lot of issues lately and that's good news for them now that the hospitals have banned any meat that has antibiotics all other food sources need to follow suit and join the ban then maybe our congress will take notice that concerned citizens are tired of being looked over and our safety is important everyone has the right to know what is in their food too prevent any harm to our bodies or organs this should be a number # 1 priority for congress to understand that's part of there job to protect the general public and they need to start doing there jobs.

David C (129)
Sunday June 9, 2013, 5:46 pm

Theodore Shayne (56)
Monday June 10, 2013, 8:37 am
Now there's something you don't see every day Chauncey....a hospital with a conscience.

JL A (281)
Monday June 10, 2013, 9:39 am
You cannot currently send a star to Theodore because you have done so within the last day.

Nancy M (169)
Monday June 10, 2013, 10:35 am
Great news- eliminates the link. Still need to work on getting the antibiotic out of livestock feed, and other agricultural uses.

JL A (281)
Monday June 10, 2013, 10:53 am
You cannot currently send a star to Nancy because you have done so within the last day

S S (0)
Monday June 10, 2013, 1:14 pm
Thank you.

JL A (281)
Monday June 10, 2013, 1:23 pm
You are welcome Shanti.

SĂĽheyla C (234)
Monday June 10, 2013, 1:49 pm

. (0)
Monday June 10, 2013, 2:15 pm
Now that's a step in the right direction.

JL A (281)
Monday June 10, 2013, 2:23 pm
You are welcome Suheyla.
You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last day.

Past Member (0)
Monday June 10, 2013, 5:14 pm
It is a health hazard, go organic where you can, it improves health. Companies make a lot of money off unnecessary antibiotics.

JL A (281)
Monday June 10, 2013, 5:16 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Melinda because you have done so within the last day.

Mitchell D (87)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 7:23 am
Sounds like a good start.

JL A (281)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 8:06 am
You cannot currently send a star to Mitchell because you have done so within the last day.

cynthia l (207)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 1:36 pm
so many people are now allergic to antibotics Kudos to UCSF
congress should follow the lead but not likely to happen thx JLA

JL A (281)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 1:47 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Cynthia because you have done so within the last day.

Lady Az (0)
Monday August 12, 2013, 9:06 am
Thanks for sharing

Jesus is God :D

JL A (281)
Monday August 12, 2013, 9:32 am
You are welcome Lady Az
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