Provided mayoral approval is achieved, large grocery chains within San Francisco will now need to reveal the antibiotic use practices for all meat and poultry sold at their locations. The law was passed unanimously last week by the city’s board of supervisors.
This marks the first time in U.S. history that domestic livestock producers will be charged with this level of transparency regarding their antibiotic use. The ordinance includes any meat sold by companies with 25 or more stores — such as Safeway and Costco — regardless of where it is actually produced.
The practices must be reported on an annual basis.
Advocates say the law will not only help inform the shopping decisions of everyday shoppers, it will also empower other groups.
“For the first time, scientists, regulators, industry leaders, and public health advocates will have concrete information about how antibiotics are being used to raise food animals,” Avinash Kar, a senior attorney with the National Resources Defense Council, wrote in a piece explaining the legislation.
“The ordinance goes beyond current federal laws, which allow livestock producers to use antibiotics to raise food animals without reporting or disclosure,” Kar explained. “California has a new law that would require reporting, but that law only applies to livestock raised in the Golden State, and much of the meat eaten by San Franciscans is imported from elsewhere.”
Some in the retail industry, however, say the law is redundant and adds burdensome paperwork.
“Under the city’s proposal certain food retail establishments, including both traditional grocers and specialty food retail establishments with 25 or more stores nationwide, will be forced to produce and maintain redundant paperwork about antimicrobial usage or non-usage in meat,” the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) wrote in a release condemning the law. “This information is already predominantly provided and federally regulated on the fresh meat label for those consumers who seek products from animals raised without antibiotics. Shoppers have the option to purchase certified organic products or products that are labeled as ‘Raised without Antibiotics’ or an approved variation of this nomenclature. The San Francisco ordinance fails to recognize that these meat cuts are – by definition – free from antimicrobial treatments.”
FMI called the law “an ill-conceived document.” FMI, along with other industry groups, have also protested other labeling laws that have recently been passed, including the FDA’s Menu Labeling law, which requires additional menu labeling for retail and foodservice outlets with more than 25 locations.
The meat labeling rules are slated to take effect six months after the mayor signs the necessary documentation.
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