Officials hope to leverage concern about antibiotic resistance to alter meat, poultry production
Lawmakers in the Golden Gate City want to close the door on unnecessary antibiotic use in livestock, so they’ve unanimously OK’d a local ordinance requiring large retailers to annually report on antibiotics used by their meat and poultry suppliers.
The local law is the first of its kind in the country, according to the man who proposed it, San Francisco’s 8th District Supervisor Jeff Sheehy. Though the ordinance only applies to about 120 grocery stores — all in San Francisco — its reach is much broader.
It doesn’t matter if the local retailers get their meat and poultry from California family farm or a multi-national beef packer based in Brazil, they will have to collect annual data from those suppliers’ on their antibiotic policies and practices.
The law only applies to retailers that have more than 25 locations worldwide. But, that designation means Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other national and regional grocery retailers will have to pony up the data on their suppliers.
Local public health officials joined Sheehy, other city-county board members, and a legion of consumer and animal watchdog groups in support of the ordinance. They all said they hope a ripple effect from the measure travel through the public and industry.
By publicly posting the antibiotic information that retailers submit to the San Francisco Environment Department, the proponents hope to educate consumers and shame meat and poultry producers into eliminating unnecessary antibiotic use for speeding the growth of livestock and other non-medical reasons.
At least 2 million people in America contract antibiotic-resistant infections every year. Of those, at least 23,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Grocers opposed the ordinance because it holds them responsible for information that they say they do not control. They say San Francisco officials could more easily get the information by asking meat and poultry producers directly.