Dinner Is Drug-Free

Pressed by environmentalists, food chains are pushing suppliers to slash antibiotics use

Most of the billions of chickens, pigs, and other animals raised for food each year receive antibiotics in their feed. They grow faster and stay healthier, but there's a huge potential cost: the creation of drug-resistant germs that may also attack people. The European Union has largely banned in animals four antibiotics commonly used by humans, but U.S. agencies have been slower to act. So the activist group Environmental Defense (ED) has been urging restaurant chains, caterers, and others to dissuade their suppliers from using antibiotics -- and the strategy is working. In June, McDonald's said it would require meat suppliers to stop one routine use of the drugs, to promote growth. Now, Bon Appétit is going further. The caterer, which prepares 300,000 meals a day for companies such as Oracle Corp, universities, and others, announced on Dec. 4 that by next summer, its suppliers would stop dosing whole flocks of chickens to prevent disease. The drugs will be used only to treat sick animals. Such moves show that reducing drug use is "both feasible and affordable," says ED's Rebecca Goldburg.

By John Carey in Washington

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