WASHINGTON – Schools should be able to procure chicken raised without the routine use of medically important antibiotics from the Department of Agriculture through its USDA Foods program, according to a petition filed today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Urban School Food Alliance, and School Food Focus. A coalition of schools and public health, parent, environmental and other groups – including School District of Philadelphia, Minneapolis School District, and California PTA – rallied in support of the petition with a letter to Secretary Vilsack.
“This will allow school cafeterias across the country to help fight our growing antibiotic crisis,” said Margaret Brown, staff attorney for NRDC. “By selling meat raised without antibiotics misuse through its bulk purchasing program, the USDA can allow more schools to serve it to their students. This will not only improve more kids’ lunches, but help keep life-saving drugs working when children need them.”
Leading health experts caution that the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria increases the numbers of infections in people that may be more difficult to treat, require longer and more expensive hospital visits, and pose more fatal and non-fatal health risks. They warn that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics is contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria and harm to human health. Even the USDA has acknowledged that eliminating the routine use of human antibiotics in livestock and poultry production will slow the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“The facts are clear: access to chicken raised without the routine use of medically important antibiotics can help protect our students and the broader community. That’s why our six city Alliance, which serves nearly three million kids every day, has already committed to purchase chicken that helps stems the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria,” said Eric Goldstein, Chairman of the Urban School Food Alliance. “We respectfully call on our colleagues at USDA to help make sure all our children have access to responsibly raised chicken.”