Health Care Without Harm and Other Health, Environment, and School Groups Meet with CA Suppliers to Discuss Meat Procurement Changes

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Groups hope to strengthen markets for meat produced without the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics.

UCSF Sustainability Committee Recommends Meat Raised Without NonTherapeutic Antibiotics.

Major California health and environmental organizations, including Health Care Without Harm and the San Francisco Bay Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (SF PSR) are meeting with hospitals, meat producers, and supply chain representatives October 7th and 8th in San Francisco Bay Area to decide on a strategy for expanded procurement of meat raised without the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics.

Because of their purchasing power, hospitals and other large institutions can often tip the market towards increasing the provision of products they need. In California, aggregate data compiled by Health Care Without Harm and SF PSR found that 45 hospitals in California purchased 1,164,900 pounds of beef and 1,280,352 pounds of poultry in 2012 alone. Twenty-two of these health care institutions spent a combined total of $3,582,924 on local and/or sustainable food and beverages in 2012.

Many of these hospitals are looking to scale-up their sustainable purchasing to include larger volumes of meat produced without the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics. Seventy-eight percent of hospitals recently surveyed by Health Care Without Harm and SF PSR have a meat reduction and sustainable meat procurement program in place. At one such facility—the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center—the Academic Senate passed a resolution in the Spring of 2013 to phase out the procurement of meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics.

Unfortunately, hospitals have found it challenging to find supplies of meat produced without non-therapeutic antibiotics, which the October 7-8 meeting aims to redress. As Dan Henroid, the Director of UCSF Medical Center’s Department of Nutrition and Food Services states: “Though we source more than 20 percent of our food from sustainable sources, we know the daily challenges of sourcing sufficient quantities of sustainable meat within our resources for our patients and customers. This unique meeting will pull together representatives from all the major parts of the food chain to share perspectives and start to find cost effective solutions for sourcing sustainable meat products.”

Charles Thieriot of Llano Seco Organic Meats, which will be represented at the meeting, has also voiced his support for greater collaboration with hospitals: “We put the health of our pigs first. This naturally makes a cleaner, better tasting and more easily digestible pork proteins and fats. What better partners could we have than human health care providers?"

Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animal agriculture, primarily for non-therapeutic purposes. These antibiotics are being used for growth promotion and to compensate for unsanitary living conditions. There is strong consensus among independent experts that overuse of medically important drugs in animal agriculture contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

“We believe the human health implications are clear enough that the Food and Drug Administration and Congress should ban the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture,” stats Lucia Sayre, co-chair of Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care Program and co-Executive Director of SF PSR. “But if they won’t act, we are ready to use the marketplace to help us reduce a major source of antibiotic resistance.”

Joining the organizations for the meeting will be representatives of School Food FOCUS, an organization dedicated to the procurement of meat raised with minimal, safe, and sustainable (MSS) use of antibiotics for use in school system food services.

Although this is a regional meeting of stakeholders and food system experts, the results will have national implications. Both HCWH and School Food FOCUS work nationally with their respective institutional purchasing sectors, and the supply chain strategies developed at this meeting will be shared for replication in other regions of the country.

Heath Care without Harm (HCWH) is an international coalition of more than 500 organizations in 53 countries, working to transform the health care sector, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. See http://www.noharm.org. To learn more about HCWH’s Healthy Food in Health Care Program, visit our website at http://www.healthyfoodinhealthcare.org.

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