San Francisco becomes 1st U.S. city to require reports on antibiotics in meat

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)-- San Francisco has become the first city in the nation to require large chain grocery stores to report on their suppliers' use of antibiotics in raw meat and poultry sold in the stores.

The law authored by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy was unanimously passed by the Board of Supervisors last week and signed by Mayor Ed Lee today.

The purpose of the measure, according to Sheehy, is to address harmful overuse of antibiotics by informing consumers about the practices behind the products they may buy.

"Scientists, the Centers for Disease Control, and even the Food and Drug Administration all agree that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animals is creating a public health hazard," Sheehy said in a

Unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals can promote the development of antibiotic-resistant "superbug" bacteria, which can spread to humans either through water, air and soil where the animals are raised or
through exposure to raw meat and poultry.

The legislative findings for the new law note that in a 2013 report, the CDC estimated that at least 2 million people per year in the U.S. contract antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 die from those infections.

"With this first-in-the-nation-legislation, we can do our part to reduce these kinds of infections here in San Francisco and protect public health," Sheehy said.

The law, entitled "Antibiotic Use in Food Animals, applies to grocers with at least one store in the city and at least 25 other stores anywhere in the world. Smaller grocers may participate voluntarily.

Grocers must report antibiotic use by their suppliers to the city Department of the Environment, which will then make the information public.

The law goes into effect in 30 days and reports are due six months later.   

City departments must report the same information for the meat and poultry they buy.

In a comment letter written to the supervisors last month, the California Grocers Association said its members shared the goal of providing the highest level of food safety, but urged the city to work directly with producers instead of grocers.

"Unfortunately, this ordinance is determined to hold grocers responsible for information over which they have no control and which is more easily retrieved by the city from the producers," the letter said.

A state law enacted in 2015 restricts the routine use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry produced in California, but does not apply to meat sold in California that comes from out-of-state suppliers.

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