New San Francisco Law Requires Report on Use of Antibiotics in Meat

Mayor Ed Lee recently signed San Francisco’s groundbreaking new law, which will require large grocery stores to report the use of antibiotics in the raw meat and poultry sold in their stores. The ordinance was unanimously adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy introduced the proposal in September. Sheehy had become interested in antibiotic resistance while working at the UCSF AIDS Research Institute for 17 years.

“HIV is just one part of a global health movement, and the recognition that infectious diseases know no boundaries,” Sheehy said. “Part of that is looking at threats that can impact us. One of the biggest is antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And that’s driven by overuse of antibiotics in animals, not just here but around the globe.”

Beginning on April 22, the new law will require grocery stores with 25 or more locations will have to file annual paperwork for each meat supplier, stating which antibiotics were used on the animals and how many antibiotics were used.

Stores that choose not to comply with the law may be fined up to $1,000 a day.

Consumers will be able to check the website of the Department of the Environment to see the published retailer reports.

Seeing as how 5.5% of Americans grill more than once a week, people are becoming more adamant about being told what’s in the meat they’re eating. San Francisco is the first county to pass legislation regarding antibiotic use in livestock.

The spreading of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is assumed to be partly caused by the use of antibiotics in livestock in order to speed up growth or increase weight. This bacteria is one of the top five health threats facing the country, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

Despite the use of antibiotics in livestock, meat consumption is steadily increasing in the United States. In fact, Rabobank, a research and advisory firm predicts that by 2018, meat consumption levels will reach more than 200 pounds per capita each year.

California will become the first state to monitor the use of antibiotics in livestock and ban the use of antibiotics for nontherapeutic reasons beginning January 1. Representatives from meat and grocery organizations have already begun making their opinions known.

In a press release, Jennifer Hatcher, the Food and Marketing Institute’s chief public policy officer said, “Today, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that will require expensive, duplicative reporting and record-keeping requirements for certain food retail establishments in the city… and if they all go in this together, it will make our environment safer and our food better.”

Within the next 90 days, San Francisco Hospital, the county jail, and other agencies will be required to list their meat suppliers, along with specifying which meat they purchased in the past year that has been subjected to antibiotics. This second provision will look at how much it would cost to switch over to antibiotic-free meat.

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