S.F. Grocers Must Report Antibiotic Use

San Fran Meat Drover's TV Greg Henderson

San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to require grocers with 25 stores or more to report annually the use of antibiotics in the raw meat and poultry they sell. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the ordinance which will take effect in April of 2018, and it could affect 120 stores.

According to the law firm Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP, grocers’ annual reports to the state’s Department of the Environment must include the purposes for which the antibiotics were used, the number of animals raised, the total volume of antibiotics given and whether their use was “medically important.” The ordinance could impose fines of up to $1,000 per day for violators.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who sponsored the ordinance, told The San Francisco Chronicle he intends to chip away at “the very real problem” of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that spread infections.

Barry Carpenter, CEO of the North American Meat Institute, told The Washington Post the San Francisco ordinance a recipe for failure. “The significant costs associated with the segregation and record-keeping for meat and poultry products to be sold in San Francisco will increase the cost of meat and poultry for consumers there and reduce options available,” he said.

California Department of the Environment director Debbie Raphael told The San Francisco Chronicle she hopes consumers in San Francisco will shift to buying meat with lower antibiotic content once they have the information. That statement should draw a red flag as it further underscores the confusion consumers and even government officials have about antibiotics.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) conducts a monitoring program to ensure that antibiotics are effectively eliminated from animals’ systems and that no unsafe residues are detected in meat and poultry. Government officials, especially those advocating for stricter regulations, should know when FSIS finds antibiotic residues in meat products a recall is initiated. Animals given antibiotics during production may not go to slaughter until after a specific withdrawal time.

According to the North American Meat Institute, the vast majority of antibiotics are usedare used either in people, or in animals, but not both.  Three compounds, penicillin, fluoroquinolones and cephalosporins comprise 70 percent of the total sales for humans, while two compounds, tetracyclines and ionophores comprise 70 percent of the total volume sold for animals.

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