Photograph by George Steinmetz, NG Creative
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The Obama Administration is pressing food companies and others to use fewer antibiotics. Shown here, poultry production in Itapui, Brazil.
Photograph by George Steinmetz, NG Creative

White House Presses Companies to Reduce Antibiotic Use

The Obama Administration is launching an all-out effort to encourage food companies, drug companies, health agencies, and medical schools to commit to plans that will conserve antibiotic use in order to slow the advance of antibiotic resistance.  It called more than 150 groups to the White House Tuesday for a “Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship,” the first of its kind.

They met mostly behind closed doors, reports our colleague, Maryn McKenna, over on National Geographic’s Phenomena blog (Today: Obama Convenes First Antibiotic Summit.)

The White House announced it will direct federal departments to buy meat and poultry raised with what it calls “responsible antibiotic use,” a term that McKenna says “is going to take some unpacking,” but probably means they’ll use the reduced-antibiotic use policies that the Food and Drug Administration issued last year. The administration envisions a five-year timeline, ending up in 2020 with “applying a preference” for antibiotic-free meats.

There is likely to be a focus on the commitments being made by food companies, because in the push to reduce resistance, agriculture and veterinary drug companies have been slow to change. A number of food companies that have recently made striking commitments to change their practices, including McDonald’s, Tyson, Walmart, Smithfield, and Foster Farms, made the invite list, McKenna says.

Antibiotic resistance kills about 750,000 people a year worldwide, 23,000 of them in the U.S.

For the latest details, check out McKenna’s post on the Phenomena blog.