530 Chefs Call on White House to End Antibiotic Overuse on Industrial Farms


This week, The Pew Charitable Trusts delivered a letter signed by 530 chefs (PDF) to Sam Kass, executive director of Let's Move! and senior policy advisor for nutrition at the White House, urging the Obama administration to finalize policies to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics and to protect people from resistant superbugs.

Eighty percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are intended for food animals, often not to treat illness but to compensate for overcrowded conditions and to make the animals grow faster. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently declared that "much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe."  

September 26, 2013

Chef Sam Kass
Executive Director and Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy Let's Move Initiative, Office of the First Lady
Executive Office of the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Chef Kass: 

As fellow chefs, we are writing to ask you to support much-needed policies to rein in the overuse of antibiotics in food animals and ensure that these drugs remain effective for future generations. We share your deep commitment to creating a more sustainable and healthy food system, and believe that antibiotics should only be used to treat sick animals, not to compensate for unsanitary conditions or make animals grow faster. The cost of these farming practices to public health is simply too high. At a minimum, President Obama and his administration should swiftly finalize policies drafted by the Food and Drug Administration to end the most egregious misuses of antibiotics and expand veterinary involvement in their use on the farm.

The fact that antibiotic overuse on industrial farms contributes to the development of drug-resistant superbugs is not news. Back in 1977, FDA first tried to implement policies to restrict antibiotic use for food animal production. However, Congress prevented the agency from acting. Since that time hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have confirmed the connection between drug use on the farm and resistant infections in people. The calls for action from the public health community and consumers have grown only more urgent.

At our restaurants every day, we strive to serve meat and poultry raised on farms where antibiotics are not misused. We are committed to making sure that our food is raised in a way that does not put the health of our patrons and the greater public at risk. We are doing our part and call on government and industry to do theirs.

Under President Obama's leadership, FDA resumed its long-delayed effort to curb the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animal production. While the agency did not continue its original strategy of mandating restrictions, it is pushing a mix of voluntary and mandatory measures that instruct drug companies to stop marketing antibiotics for growth promotion and routine disease prevention and expand veterinary oversight of antibiotic use on the farm (i.e., Guidance #213 and changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive). More than 14 months have passed, though, and Guidance #213 remains in draft form and there still is no draft rule amending the Veterinary Feed Directive.

As America's First Chef, you have the unique opportunity to help make our food system safer and more sustainable. Please encourage President Obama and his administration to quickly finalize policies to stop antibiotic overuse and misuse on industrial farms.

To view the names of the 530 chefs who signed this letter, click here.