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Antibiotics - Agriculture, Medicine, & Meat in New England Institutions

Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care program engages the health care community in bringing an end to the routine use of antibiotics in raising food animals. Such routine, non-therapeutic use contributes significantly to the rise in resistant bacterial infections in humans and is unnecessary.

Read more about their national antibiotics work with the supply chain to make more meat raised without routine use of antibiotics available to health care institutions, and all institutions though their work collaborating nationally on procurement. A partnership between health care (Health Care Without Harm), higher education (Real Food Challenge), and K-12 (School Food FOCUS) are joining together to communicate with the supply chain.  This collaborative represents significant demand to suppliers with the goal of changing production practices to those that are protective of health and the environment.

Within New England, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) combines its work related to antibiotics with its efforts to build a strong, local food system.  This spring, they will be meeting with regional supply chain representatives, health care representatives, and regional producers to explore how to make New England-raised meat available to health care institutions.  Since New England producers are more commonly producing meat without routine use of antibiotics, HCWH feels that the farmers are well positioned to meet health care's growing demand for such meat. 

Just recently, the MA Hospital Association rolled out an initiative asking Massachusetts hospitals to sign on to an Antibiotic Stewardship Initiative that would require the facilities to cut back on serving meat products that have non-therapeutic antibiotics in them. (HCWH worked closely with them to develop this initiative.)  HCWH is using this momentum to represent demand from health care in New England for sustainably produced meats and rally the supply chain to meet (at least part of) this demand through New England producers.

Legislation

The White House recently released a five-year national plan addressing use of antibiotics in agriculture and medicine: “National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.”  However, the plan relies heavily on voluntary measures and experts agree that it does not go far enough to ensure accountability or control and monitor use in agriculture, and that stronger congressional action is needed.

Representative Louise Slaughter reintroduced two important pieces of legislation that would take a more proactive approach than the White House plan.  The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) would ban non-therapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics in animal raised for food.  Slaughter reintroduced this bill on March 24, 2015.  The Senate version of the bill, Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2014 (PARA) was reintroduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins on March 3, 2015. 

To provide better information on the amount and use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials given to animals raised for human consumption, Slaughter will reintroduce a second bill later this year: Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency Act (DATA). The bill has an identical name in the Senate. 

 

John Stoddard is New England Regional Project Coordinator for Health Care Without Harm.

Featured image of UMass Amherst Dining courtesy of the Kendall Foundation.