Steven Roach, Safe and Healthy Food Program Director, Food Animal Concerns Trust
I attended a talk this week by Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Califf. When I asked him about antibiotic resistance related to animal agriculture, he said this was an issue where everyone needs to give a little bit. He mentioned doctors, drug makers, and farmers as needing to be part of the
solution. People that sell food also need to do their part. That’s why Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) and some of our allies in the Antibiotics Off the Menu Coalition decided to score the twelve largest U.S. grocery chains on their policies on antibiotic use by their meat suppliers. FACT along with World Animal Protection, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, and the Center for Food Safety surveyed these grocers and then based on their responses and other publicly available information scored them on their policies.
We reported our results in the first ever Superbugs in Stock report. We were looking for policies that prohibit the use of medically important antibiotics for routine disease prevention (using the drugs in animals that are not sick or injured) and for efforts to track how much antibiotics are used to produce the meat these stores sell. We focused on the store’s own brands of fresh meat since this is where they have the most control.
Clearly these giant grocery chains are not “giving enough” to use Dr. Califf’s euphemism. Eight of the twelve received “F”s and no company got higher than a “C.” Target and Ahold Delhaize (owner of the Food Lion, Giant, and Stop & Shop brands) stand out as leaders in the sector getting “C” and “C-“ grades for policies prohibiting routine preventive use. Target received additional points for requiring tracking of use by its suppliers. Still it is not clear how much of the meat sold by either company actually complies with the company polices.