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Clarification Needed On Statement Included in White House Press Release Regarding Antibiotics and Hormones

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

As the North American Meat Institute’s statement released earlier today stated, we appreciate the White House’s leadership on the issue of antibiotic resistance and look forward to working with federal officials to develop and implement meaningful, science based actions that will help combat antibiotic resistance.  We are concerned, however, about certain statements in the White House press release that could confuse consumers.   

 The statement says that the “The Presidential Food Service is also committing to serving meats and poultry that have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics.”  This statement is concerning for several reasons. 

 ·         No meat or poultry product is “treated” with antibiotics.  Livestock and poultry may sometimes be administered antibiotics, but strict federal withdrawal periods and careful federal residue monitoring ensure that meat and poultry derived from animals that received antibiotics are safe for consumers.

 ·         Antibiotics are federally approved and regulated and can be essential in ensuring animal health and welfare.  While the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion is being discontinued, antibiotics are needed because livestock and poultry, like all animals, become sick at certain times and require antibiotics to treat an infection or to prevent or control spread disease among a herd or flock.  These antibiotics are approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are used.  Not utilizing antibiotics when a veterinarian deems it appropriate could pose an animal welfare issue. 

 ·         Announcements about changes in meat and poultry procurement are out of synch with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) analysis.  In releasing a 2013 report on antimicrobial resistance, CDC’s Director Tom Frieden, MD, said, “The really most acute problem is in hospitals.  And the most resistant organisms in hospitals are emerging in those settings, because of poor antimicrobial stewardship among humans. 

 ·         Hormones are never used in hog and poultry production, although they are approved for cattle.  The White House can buy pork and poultry products from animals or birds raised without hormones at any local grocery store and under any brand name. 

 ·         Hormones and antibiotics are quite different in their use and function. The reference to hormones in connection with a summit on antibiotics may confuse consumers.

 ·         Beef products from both hormone-treated and untreated cattle have far fewer hormones than foods like coleslaw, eggs or tofu.   In fact, no living organism can be “hormone free,” although that phrase is commonly – and erroneously -- used.

 ·         The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine approves and oversees the use of both antibiotics and hormones in livestock and poultry.  The White House announcement seems to demonstrate a lack of faith in FDA’s approval process and oversight.

Again, we appreciate the White House’s leadership on this important issue and welcome an opportunity to collaborate.  Given the complexity of the issues surrounding antibiotic resistance, we think it is important to be extremely careful how these issues are discussed to ensure that decisions are made based upon the best available science.”



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