US - A new coalition of the largest school districts in the United States that includes New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando, has called for an antibiotic-free standard for companies to follow when supplying chicken products to its schools.
The Urban School Food Alliance said it is taking action to protect the future of the country’s students.
The Alliance said that serving nearly 2.9 million students daily, Alliance members procure more than $550 million in food and supplies annually. The coalition aims to use its joint purchasing power and influence to help drive down nationwide costs, while setting higher standards for the quality of food served in its schools.
The Alliance said it is seeking to ensure that students receive the highest quality meals and that exceed minimum United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines.
The Alliance’s action this week focused on chicken because the group said it is one of the most popular items served at cafeterias across the country.
“The standards we’re asking from the manufacturers go above and beyond the quality of the chicken we normally purchase at local supermarkets,” said USFA Chairman Eric Goldstein and Chief Executive Officer of School Support Services for the New York City Department of Education.
“This move by the Alliance shows that school food directors across the country truly care about the health and wellness of students.”
Working with suppliers, non-profit partners and government agencies, the Alliance has committed to:
The Alliance will require that all chicken products must be produced under a USDA Process Verified Program that includes compliance with the following:
- No animal by-products in the feed
- Raised on an all-vegetarian diet
- Humanely raised as outlined in the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines
- No antibiotics ever
The Alliance said that if a food company cannot supply the full volume of “No Antibiotics Ever” chicken during procurement, a written plan as to when the supplier will meet the standard will be required. In the meantime, the supplier must have the capacity for USDA Process Verified (third party) for Therapeutic Use Only chicken as defined in the Natural Resources Defense Council's "Support For Antibiotic Stewardship in Poultry Production" dated December 2013; Or School Food Focus /The PEW Charitable Trusts "Purchasing Guidelines That Minimize the use of Antibiotics in Poultry Production" dated September 2014.
Response from National Chicken Council
Tom Super, National Chicken Council vice president of communications said: "We share in the goal of providing our school children with food that is healthy, safe and affordable.
"Chicken is the most nutritious, versatile and affordable protein available, especially for growing, school-aged children. In some instances, school breakfast and lunch might be the only opportunity for kids to eat high-quality protein during the day.
"We support consumer and student choice, but we strongly caution against food trends that are not fully supported by science, will introduce higher costs into the food system, and offer no benefit to public health.”
Responsible Use of Antibiotics in Raising Chickens
Just like people, animals get sick, and treating illness is a responsible part of animal care. Even if you have the best animal health plan, some chickens may get sick and need to be treated with antibiotics.
Veterinarians have a responsibility to treat those animals in a responsible and targeted manner, for a limited duration under FDA-approved guidelines.
Antibiotic resistance is a very serious and complex issue. Several scientific, peer-reviewed risk assessments demonstrate that resistance that is emerging in animals and transferring to humans does not happen in measurable amounts, if at all.
For those antibiotics that are FDA-approved for use in raising chickens, the majority of them are not used in human medicine and therefore do not represent any threat of creating resistance in humans.
Still, antibiotics for growth promotion are being phased out through actions taken by the FDA and endorsed by animal agriculture, and the role of the veterinarian in prescribing them is being expanded.
Use of Term “Antibiotic-Free” is Misleading
All chicken meat is "antibiotic-free". If an antibiotic is used on the farm, federal rules require the antibiotics to have cleared the animals’ systems before they can be processed.
For approved antibiotics, FDA and the USDA have extensive monitoring and testing programs to make sure that food at the grocery store or in schools does not contain antibiotic residues.
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