We see and hear lots of claims about meat being ‘antibiotic free.’

Aug 08, 2017

We see and hear lots of claims about meat being ‘antibiotic free.’

Actually, all meat is antibiotic free. The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tests products to make sure they are free of antibiotic residues. Multiple checkpoints are used to ensure the meat entering the food chain is safe for consumers to eat.

The USDA does not allow meat processors to use the claim “antibiotic free” on package labels because it can be confusing to consumers as all meat products are antibiotic free. 

This is not to say animals have not been given antibiotics. Farmers and producers use antibiotics to help keep animals healthy. Antibiotics can be used to treat individually sick animals when illness occurs or some antibiotics are used to keep the whole herd healthy and prevent illness from affect the entire herd. They are a way to help sick animals, just like they are used when humans get sick. It is a humane way for producers to be able to take care of their sick animals and allow them to recover.

When a farmer gives an animal antibiotics they must stop the antibiotic for a specific amount of time before they are sent to market (a withdrawal time) to ensure the medicine has been completely metabolized by the animal’s body. Failure of producers to comply with withdrawal times results in heavy fines and increased restrictions on subsequent animals that are sent to harvest. Meat products that test positive for residues are immediately removed from the food chain.

Labels such as “raised without antibiotics” or “no antibiotics administered” can be found on packages. This means that the animals were never given antibiotics in their lifetime. These allow consumers to make decisions based on how the animals were raised. All consumers should be aware that any meat products they purchase have tested to be free of antibiotics.

Sources:

http://www.ahi.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Animal-Antibiotics-Keeping-Animals-Healthy.pdf

https://blogs.k-state.edu/extensionnews/2015/09/14/meat-the-labels-raised-without-antibioticsadded-hormones/

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