US non-profits introduce new industry standard for antibiotic use in poultry

The standard developed by these organisations and certified by the US Department of Agriculture advocates minimal antibiotic use in chickens

By Mouna Nagaraju
Published: Monday 11 May 2015


Two United States-based non-profits have come up with a new standard for antibiotic use in chickens. The Pew Charitable Trusts and School Food FOCUS (a New York-based national body that ensures healthy school meals) have developed the Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU), in compliance with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The organisations have come together to address antibiotic use in poultry, as chicken is the most popular food item served in US schools. Schools across the country buy millions of pounds of chicken meat every year.

Reduction of antibiotics in chickens

PEW’s press release issued recently mentions that by complying with CRAU guidelines, antibiotic use in poultry can be reduced. This, in turn, can slow down the emergence of resistance-developing bacteria and protect the efficacy of antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious global health concern which renders antibiotics ineffective. The development of resistance is aided by the misuse and sometimes overuse of antibiotics in humans and food-producing animals.

Poultry farmers, who want to be certified with CRAU, are prohibited from using antibiotics which are closely related to antibiotics used in medicines for humans or without clear medical justification.

Some of the other requirements of CRAU say that veterinarians should be consulted prior to medical use and that antibiotics are not to be administered before eggs are hatched. It also lays emphasis on preventive programmes, including vaccination, and asks for regular third-party verification of antibiotic use documentation and on-site practices by the USDA. Till date, only one supplier of chicken meat in the US has been verified as it meets all the standards.

The press release also mentions that the standard is market-driven. Consumer demand had also pushed McDonald’s to announce that they will not source chickens raised with antibiotics, which are important from the point of view of human health. Demands from US consumers are driving chicken meat suppliers to supply antibiotic-free chickens or chicken raised with their reduced use.

Similar demand in India can also force the hotel industry, including quick-service restaurants (QSRs), to source antibiotic-free chickens or chickens raised with reduced use of antibiotics.

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