WASHINGTON – Tyson Foods, Inc. is the first food company to adopt a new standard for antibiotics in chicken served in the nation's schools.

The Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU) standard, which has been verified by the US Department of Agriculture, offers schools the option of serving to students poultry raised with responsible antibiotic use. The standard allows minimal use of antibiotics medically important to human medicine — but only with veterinary oversight. USDA will verify compliance with the standards by suppliers who sell certified chicken to schools, hospitals and other institutions. The agency will use its Process Verified Program or its Quality System Assessment.

“Under these programs, USDA provides audit-based third-party verification services to the poultry industry, said Craig Morris of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. “Through these audits, companies can assure customers of their commitment to responsible antibiotic use.

“The CRAU standard gives the poultry industry attainable, verifiable guidelines, which can play a valuable role in promoting the responsible use of antibiotics.”

Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest chicken producer, successfully completed an audit at its New Holland, Pa., complex in April. The company plans to implement the standard in 38 of its poultry production facilities.

“The new standard was created in response to a demand for more sustainably produced school food,” said Kathy Lawrence, director of strategic development at School Food FOCUS. “This is a market-driven, grassroots solution to a critical public health challenge, and demonstrates the leadership school districts can exert as institutional buyers.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts and School Food FOCUS developed CRAU with the input of the National Procurement Initiative, which includes 15 large school districts that serve 2.3 million children and have more than $36 million in annual chicken purchasing power. School Food FOCUS (Food Options for Children in the United States) is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and private donors.