'Food Day' celebration aims to reduce antibiotics in animal agriculture
Asking health-care systems to serve healthier food
In recent years, many hospitals and health-care systems have expanded their roles as stewards of antibiotics, and one way they're doing that is to use their purchasing power and authority to support sustainable food policies and farmers who don’t misuse these essential medicines.
As part of that initiative, many organizations including the Ecology Center are supporting a national initiative to encourage health-care facilities to serve at least one meat item raised without routine antibiotics on Food Day, Oct. 24.
Eighty percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used for animal agriculture, primarily on healthy (not sick) animals, to promote growth and allow them to be raised in crowded, unhealthy conditions, according to Nicki Milgrom, organizer with the Ecology Center’s Healthy Food in Health Care program.
“The American health-care sector purchases millions of pounds of meats a year, so persuading those institutions to purchase meat raised without routine antibiotics could send a strong signal to the marketplace eventually causing a shift in production practices,” Milgrom says.
Food Day, which is supported by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Health Care Without Harm has joined with them specifically to address the overuse of antibiotics in the food chain - a critical factor to reduce the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans.
“Antibiotic resistance is today’s top public health crisis,” Milgrom says. “As bacteria evolve and become resistant to antibiotics, common infections could become deadly. Diseases that were once curable are becoming harder and more expensive to treat." "Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill,” explains Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization.
In recent years, many hospitals have used their purchasing power to support sustainable food policies and farmers who don’t misuse antibiotics, Milgrom says. “For example, Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo serves local antibiotic and hormone free chicken and features antibiotic-free beef on their menu and at their indoor winter farmers market.”
Households can celebrate Food Day every day by choosing meat or poultry raised without routine antibiotics by looking for one of these third party certifications: USDA Certified Organic; Certified Humane Raised and Handled; Animal Welfare Approved; Food Alliance Certified; and/or one of the following label claims “Raised without antibiotics” or ”No antibiotics administered.”