Passage of San Francisco meat ordinance worries industry

by Erica Shaffer
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The municipal rule requires large grocery stores to report on the use of antibiotics in meat and poultry.
 

SAN FRANCISCO – Food industry stakeholders expressed disappointment and concern at the passage of an ordinance that requires large grocery stores to submit detailed reports regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock raised for meat and poultry products.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently passed Ordinance No. 170763 requiring grocers to report:

  • the different purposes for which antibiotics are used;
  • whether the use has a Third-Party Certification;
  • the average number of days of antibiotic use per animal;
  • the percentage of animals treated with antibiotics;
  • the number of animals raised; and
  • the total volume of antibiotics administered.

Grocers also will be required to distinguish between medically important antibiotics, and antibiotics not currently medically important.

In a statement, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) called the ordinance “a recipe for disaster.”

“The significant costs associated with the segregation and recordkeeping 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,” NAMI said. “Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the program will have a meaningful public health benefit.

“Antibiotic resistance is a major concern that should be addressed, and the FDA has implemented significant changes regarding how antibiotics are used and regulated for animals in the United States. FDA’s new policy eliminates the use of medically important antibiotics for promoting growth in animals and requires all remaining uses to be accomplished under the supervision of a veterinarian. This new policy helps ensure medically-important antibiotics are used in food animals only to fight disease under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.”

Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer and senior vice president of public affairs for the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), said the ordinance would require “…expensive, duplicative reporting and recordkeeping requirements…”

“We are disappointed that in the passage of this ordinance, the Board did not take into consideration the concerns of the city’s grocers, their customers, or the commonsense modifications proposed by FMI to exempt products marked as USDA certified organic, ‘Raised without Antibiotics’ or an approved variation of this nomenclature,” Hatcher said in a statement.

“Under the ordinance, certain food retail establishments, including both traditional grocers and specialty food retail establishments with 25 or more stores nationwide, will be forced to produce and maintain redundant paperwork about antimicrobial usage or non-usage in meat. As FMI stated in its letter submitted to the Board and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, this information is already prominently provided on the package as it is federally regulated and must appear on the fresh meat label for those consumers who seek products from animals raised without antibiotics. This includes meat labeled ‘organic.’”

Grocers and producers are jointly and severally liable for delays in submitting reports and for false statements made in the reports, according to the ordinance. Penalties for violating the ordinance can include fines of up to $500 or civil penalties of $1,000 each day per violation.

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