Perdue Foods announces major step in reducing antibiotic use

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON Sept. 3, 2014 - Perdue Foods announced today that it has removed all antibiotics from its chicken hatcheries, a move that took five years to implement and goes above and beyond USDA and FDA voluntary guidelines.

The company completely phased out the use of antibiotics approved for use in humans as well as antibiotics used for growth promotion in chicken production.

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Perdue's senior vice president of food safety, quality, and live operations Bruce Stewart-Brown said limiting the use of all antibiotics in the company's food production will not include a total elimination of antibiotic use. The company will continue to use antibiotics approved for animal use to combat an intestinal parasite as well as for the treatment and control of illness in sick chicken flocks.

“(I)t is not realistic or responsible to eliminate all antibiotics. No matter how carefully you raise animals, some are going to be exposed to infections that can only be treated with antibiotics. As veterinarians, we have a responsibility to properly treat those animals,” Stewart-Brown said in a release, adding that antibiotic use in the company is generally very targeted and lasts no longer than three days.

Eliminating antibiotics in chicken hatcheries is part of a 12-year process for Perdue Foods. In 2002, the company started to move away from what it calls “conventional antibiotic use” in response to consumer concern. In 2005, the company began phasing out certain medically important antibiotics and by 2007 had eliminated the use of all human antibiotics from its animal feed.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) applauded the decision to remove antibiotics from Perdue Foods' chicken hatcheries.

“The amount of antibiotics used on the farm is simply not sustainable if we want to preserve their uses in human medicine,” CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWall said in a statement, citing a May 2013 study by the organization. “I hope Perdue's actions foreshadow changes across the industry, and embolden regulators to prohibit the misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture.”

Perdue Foods, a branch of Perdue Farms, offers organic and “no-antibiotics-ever” chicken as well as other products. They say that sick animals - including organic and “no-antibiotics-ever” - will continue to receive ”medically appropriate” treatment as part of the company's animal welfare commitment. However, if antibiotics are used, the animals will not be marketed as “no-antibiotics-ever” or organic.

Stewart-Brown said the company will continue to use antibiotics responsibly and work toward animal health in the process.

“Both the National Organic Program and responsibly written no-antibiotics-ever programs require the use of antibiotics when medically necessary,” Stewart-Brown said. “However, that philosophy does not justify the widespread use of human antibiotics in animal agriculture.”

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