WASHINGTON—School Food FOCUS and The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today a new designation for responsible antibiotic use in the production of chicken, the protein served most frequently in schools. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will verify compliance with the Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU) standard by suppliers who opt to sell certified chicken to schools, hospitals, and other institutional customers. By reducing the amount of antibiotics given to poultry, CRAU could slow the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria in food animal production—protecting both human and animal health over time.
Pew and School Food FOCUS (Food Options for Children in the United States) were joined by USDA officials and representatives of Tyson Foods at a news conference in Washington to announce the new standard. Tyson, the nation’s largest chicken producer, is the first company to adopt the standard. The company successfully completed an audit at its New Holland, Pennsylvania, complex on April 7, 2015, when the USDA verified that the practices meet the CRAU standard.
School Food FOCUS and Pew developed CRAU with the input of the National Procurement Initiative, a collaborative of 15 school districts that serve 2.3 million children nationwide and have more than $36 million in annual chicken purchasing power.
The new standard was created in response to a demand for more sustainably produced school food,” said Kathy Lawrence, director of strategic development at School Food FOCUS. “This is a market-driven, grassroots solution to a critical public health challenge, and demonstrates the leadership school districts can exert as institutional buyers.”
Gail Hansen, a veterinarian and senior officer for Pew’s antibiotic resistance project, emphasized that the CRAU standard allows poultry producers to use these lifesaving drugs only under veterinary oversight and only when needed to control and treat disease—but not to accelerate growth.
“The more we use antibiotics, the more likely it is that bacteria can evolve to resist them, giving rise to ‘superbugs’ that can infect humans. These infections are difficult to cure,” Hansen said. “About 70 percent of medically important antibiotics in the United States are currently used in food animals. This new standard will guide producers who want to use antibiotics in the most limited way possible in order to protect animal health, reduce overall antibiotic use, and ultimately slow the growth of superbugs that threaten human health worldwide.”
CRAU is the first industry standard addressing responsible antibiotic use for which compliance will be verified by the USDA. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Quality Assessment Division will audit poultry companies using either its Process Verified Program or its Quality System Assessment. “Under these programs, USDA provides audit-based third-party verification services to the poultry industry. Through these audits, companies can assure customers of their commitment to responsible antibiotic use,” said Craig Morris of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. “The CRAU standard gives the poultry industry attainable, verifiable guidelines, which can play a valuable role in promoting the responsible use of antibiotics.”
Lawrence of School Food FOCUS stressed that schools are already serving wholesome, high-quality chicken to students and that the standard is not about food safety, but is aimed at preserving antibiotic effectiveness for human health over the long term.
“Our hope is that this standard could set a new industry-wide expectation for responsible antibiotic use, independently verified by the U.S. government,” she said. “We hope to see CRAU-labeled products served in all schools, as well as hospitals, and eventually to the public at large. FOCUS and Pew are pleased to be working with the USDA to provide the transparency and accountability that America’s school children deserve.”
Erin Davis, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 202-540-6677, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alice Chiang, School Food FOCUS, 646-619-6494, email@example.com
Sam Jones-Ellard, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 202-660-2268, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org.
School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative that leverages the knowledge and procurement power of large school districts to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. Learn more at www.schoolfoodfocus.org.
The official list of Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use audited and approved entities is maintained by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and is available to the public at http://www.ams.usda.gov/services/auditing/crau.