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Obama Wants To Serve Antibiotic-Free Meats At The White House

President Barack Obama is looking to get more antibiotics and hormones out of meats eaten at the White House by ordering his administration to buy beef, pork and chicken from companies using “responsible antibiotic” principles.

Obama signed a memorandum Tuesday ordering federal agencies to prioritize  buying meats “according to responsible antibiotic-use.” The effort is part of a White House push to combat “antibiotic resistant” bacteria that can contaminate foods.

Federal agencies will now consider a “tiered” approach to buying meats that includes making meats using “responsible antibiotic-use” practices available in federal cafeterias in the coming years.

The White House, however, is going one step further. Obama is ordering the Presidential Food Service to commit to “serving meats and poultry that have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics.”

The PFS is basically the president’s catering service. It provides food for the the first family, White House staff and prepares gourmet meals for visiting heads of state.

Obama has also ordered the Food and Drug Administration to finalize “changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) regulation, an important piece of FDA’s overall strategy to promote the judicious use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals as it facilitates bringing the feed-use of such antibiotics under the oversight of licensed veterinarians.”

For years, the Obama administration has been targeting antibiotic use in meats, arguing that hormones and antibiotics in meat causes bacteria to become resistant to drugs. These drug-resistant bacteria “cause two million illnesses and about 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone,” according to the White House.

Last year, Obama issued an executive order allowing agencies to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and also released a national strategy to figure out ways to reduce the reported rise in such bacteria.

Environmentalists cheered the president’s efforts, but livestock producers stressed the work their industries are already doing to combat antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Livestock farmers were generally supportive of Obama administration regulations regarding antibiotics.

“The top priority of farmers and chicken companies is to raise healthy chickens because healthy chickens are directly related to a safe and wholesome food supply,” Ashley Peterson, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Chicken Council, said in a statement.

“Responsible, FDA-approved veterinary treatment and prevention benefits animal welfare and health by reducing the need for increased doses of shared-class antibiotics in the event of widespread disease,” Peterson said. “The vast majority of the antibiotics that we use are never used in human medicine.”

“While we will continue to review the final rule, NCBA supports the judicious use of antimicrobial technologies and sound peer-reviewed scientific principles as outlined in the [Beef Quality Assurance] program,” echoed Philip Ellis, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“Our policy supports ensuring that producers have access to the technologies needed to maintain a safe and healthy herd, as herd health is critical to our top priority, ensuring a safe food supply,” said Ellis.

Environmentalists, however, argued the Obama administration should go further and ban the routine use of antibiotics in healthy animals.

The federal policy should halt all routine use of medically-important antibiotics, not just one category of routine use,” said Mae Wu, a health attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Our government leaders at all levels should close this problematic loophole that allows industry to misuse our precious life-saving drugs at the expense of our health.”

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