Reuters: Costco to follow McDonald’s in eliminating sale of antibiotic-raised chicken

Costco is working to eliminate the sale of chicken and meat from other animals raised with antibiotics that are also used to fight human diseases, Reuters reported Thursday.

The Costco announcement came a day after McDonald’s announced that it would stop buying chicken raised with antibiotics.

Ashley Peterson, National Chicken Council vice president of acientific and regulatory affairs, responded to the McDonald’s announcement, saying “The vast majority of these antibiotics are never used in humans.”

“McDonald’s, veterinarians and animal scientists recognize their importance to minimize the use of those antibiotics that are important in human medicine,” Peterson said.

“While antibiotics that are important to human medicine are minimally used when raising chickens, by December 2016 under [Food and Drug Administration] guidance, these antibiotics will be labeled for use in food animals only to prevent disease and treat sick birds, and will be used exclusively under the supervision and prescription of a veterinarian.”

House Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., a microbiologist who has long waged a campaign she describes as “the fight to save antibiotics,” said in a news release, “Today’s announcement from McDonald’s is encouraging, but until there is an enforceable, verifiable limit on agricultural antibiotic use, we will have no way to verify whether chicken raised on medically important antibiotics has been truly phased out.”

“Furthermore, I have called on McDonald’s to also phase out beef raised on medically important antibiotics, and I will continue to press them on that front,” Slaughter said.

“This is proof that when an enlightened public demands change, companies respond,” she continued. “Consumers do not want to risk the health of their families by feeding them meat and poultry raised on antibiotics, and they are voting with their wallets. With over 50 city councils across the country and 450 independent health and consumer advocacy groups supporting my bill to get antibiotics off the farm and save them for humans, momentum is growing.

“That pressure needs to be directed at Congress and the FDA as well, who have failed to stem the looming antibiotic resistance crisis. Until we have a true legal limitation on antibiotic use on the farm, we will still be at risk of frittering away one of the greatest medical advancements of the modern era.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a news release, “The tide is shifting. The largest restaurant chain in the United States has taken a huge step to eliminate unnecessary antibiotic use in chickens.”

“The CDC estimates that more than 400,000 Americans contract an antibiotic-resistant foodborne infection each year, and medical experts agree that preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics is one of the most pressing public health issues we face,” Feinstein said.

“McDonald’s announcement demonstrates that businesses can be effective partners in ensuring antibiotic use in animals does not affect human health.”

Feinstein and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced a bill Monday to require the FDA to withdraw its approval of medically-important antibiotics used for disease prevention or control that are at high risk of abuse, unless the producer of the drug can demonstrate that its use in agriculture does not pose a risk to human health.

–The Hagstrom Report