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Food Buyer's New Policy Seeks to Protect Human Health from Antibiotic Overuse

U.S. foodservice company Bon Appétit has announced a new purchasing policy designed to help protect human health by reducing the use of antibiotics in food animal production. By June 2004, Bon Appétit will only purchase chicken that has been produced without the routine use of medically important antibiotics. Bon Appétit will also apply a purchasing preference for meat, dairy and seafood that have been produced with reduced amounts of antibiotics.

Some animal producers may include antibiotics in animal feed or water to promote growth or compensate for stressful conditions on modern industrial-scale farms. Bon Appétit's policy is intended to encourage meat suppliers to administer antibiotics only when they are clearly needed to treat sick animals or animals in immediate danger of being sick.

"Bon Appétit believes that the misuse of antibiotics in farm animals makes these critical drugs less effective for humans," said Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appétit. "Bon Appétit purchases a significant amount of meat, seafood, and dairy a year, and we call on the producers that supply our company to protect human health by reducing the amount of antibiotics they use."

The policy was crafted with help from the nonprofit Environmental Defense. "By working together, Environmental Defense and Bon Appétit plan to leverage the company's purchasing power to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for humans," said Gwen Ruta, program director, Environmental Defense. "This announcement, coming shortly after a similar announcement from McDonald's reinforces the feasibility and affordability of responsible antibiotic practices. Environmental Defense calls on other major purchasers to continue this trend by adopting similar policies."

"A current estimate is that an astonishing 70% of all antibiotics and related drugs in this country are fed to chickens, cows and pigs," Becky Goldburg, Ph.D., senior scientist, Environmental Defense. "Policies like McDonald's and Bon Appétit's show that reducing antibiotic use is both feasible and affordable, and they point the way toward sensible national policies to end inappropriate antibiotic use in animal agriculture."

Bon Appétit's policy, which mirrors bipartisan legislation introduced in both houses of Congress this summer, states that the company will only purchase chicken, and will implement a purchase preference for other animal products, that have been produced without certain classes of non-therapeutic antibiotics, as committed and reported by its suppliers. Non-therapeutic is defined as any use of an antibiotic as a feed or water additive for an animal in the absence of any clinical sign of disease in the animal for growth promotion, feed efficiency, weight gain, routine disease prevention, or other routine purposes.

Therapeutic uses and non-routine disease prevention are explicitly excluded from the definition of non-therapeutic. Every participating supplier under this policy must submit in writing their commitment to abide by Bon Appétit's antibiotic use policy.

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