Per Fedele: "I’ve also seen firsthand the ill effects antibiotic resistant bacteria can have on our most vulnerable populations. At one point last year, two people in our headquarters office had parents with MRSA infections. A 2009 study done at University of Iowa, as well as several conducted abroad, has linked the spread of this potentially fatal bacteria to hog production."
Here is Fedele Bauccio's speech in its entirety:
I am Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appétit Management Company, a national onsite restaurant company that serves 135 million meals each year at over 400 cafés in 31 states. As a company we are committed to two goals, culinary expertise and social responsibility, and in that vein I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to voice my strong support for White House intervention in preserving antibiotics for medical treatment.
It is imperative that we, as a country, discontinue the use of antibiotics for nontherapeutic purposes in animals. In addition to being harmful to the animals themselves and only marginally beneficial for meat producers, this common practice of using antibiotics as feed additives has led to dramatically increased antibiotic resistance in humans and has become a serious public health problem. I feel so strongly about this issue that I have banned most meat that has been raised in this manner to be served in my restaurants, and I’d ban it entirely but there isn’t enough supply for us to be able to make that commitment yet.
Our concern about this issue goes back seven years. In 2002, I learned that an estimated 70 percent of the antibiotics used in this country are fed to farm animals that are not sick in order to promote growth or prophylactically treat diseases caused by questionable animal husbandry practices. A more recent study estimated the number as 80%. As I learned more and realized how widespread these practices are in the meat production industry, Bon Appétit formed a partnership with Environmental Defense Fund to look at how we could take the lead and discourage antibiotic use in meat and poultry production. Our partnership resulted in the creation of the farthest-reaching corporate policy on antibiotics at that time: Bon Appétit only buys chicken raised without the “non-therapeutic routine use of human antibiotics as feed additives. In 2005, we extended this policy to turkey. We took this policy another step further and, since March 2007, we only serve hamburgers made from natural beef with no trim. While there is no strict legal definition of "natural," our suppliers commit to using no antibiotics, no added growth hormones, and no animal by products in feed.
Our biggest challenge in implementing our antibiotics policy has always been sourcing the products. We have recruited both major poultry producers as well as small, local producers as suppliers. We only purchase food from those who provided written confirmation of their compliance. But there are not enough suppliers who meet our standards everywhere. We use a purchasing preference to induce suppliers in many markets, but we don’t have the concentration of business in all markets to buy enough chicken or turkey or beef in some states to tip the scales as we have in other locations, and we can’t find a national pork producer who will commit at all. Many producers are afraid to change, even with an economic incentive. They need a push. The White House could be that lever of change we need.
From 2006 to 2008, I served as a member of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. I learned a lot from the physicians, poultry producers, farmers and industry representatives on the committee, as well as those who testified before us. I came away from that experience enriched and much better educated about animal husbandry. One of the many things I concluded is that there is absolutely no good business reason, and certainly no good moral reason, for feeding medically important human antibiotics to animals that we eat. None.
I’ve also seen firsthand the ill effects antibiotic resistant bacteria can have on our most vulnerable populations. At one point last year, two people in our headquarters office had parents with MRSA infections. A 2009 study done at University of Iowa, as well as several conducted abroad, has linked the spread of this potentially fatal bacteria to hog production.
The bottom line is, Americans want safe food. Food is nourishment. It shouldn’t be something that does us harm. Antibiotic resistance is harmful. These drugs were meant to treat humans and animals when we’re really sick and need them, not as a feed additive for animals so they won’t be effective when humans need them. Let’s get our priorities straight. The time to ban antibiotics as a feed additive is long overdue. I strongly support this action. Thank you.