New Legislation Approved Requiring Disclosure of Use of Antibiotics in Meat Products

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco will now require large chain grocers to provide information about the antibiotic use associated with each line of raw meat sold in their stores. The “Right to Know” ordinance, authored by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, seeks to stem the tide of antibiotic-resistant infections by informing consumers about the antibiotics use policies and practices behind meat products sold in San Francisco stores. Mayor Edwin M.  Lee signed the legislation today.

“Scientists, the CDC, and even the FDA all agree that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animals is creating a public health hazard,” said Supervisor Sheehy. “Every year, 2 million people contract antibiotic-resistant infections resulting in over 23,000 deaths. 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.”

“Shopping for food should not be a guessing game,” said Mayor Lee. “By requiring grocers to disclose to the Department of the Environment their meat suppliers’ antibiotics use practices, San Francisco’s residents and families can make purchases that align with their values.”

Smaller grocers may voluntarily participate. The information will be collected, managed and made publicly available by the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

“At a time of climate crisis, it’s important that we look at how all of our systems, including our food supply chain, are impacting our environment and our health,” said Debbie Raphael, director of the San Francisco Department of Environment. “Supervisor Sheehy’s legislation builds on San Francisco’s strong commitment to smart consumer ‘Right to Know’ policy. As we face the pressures of a changing climate, we need to make sure that people have the tools and information they need to remain healthy and resilient.” 

The overuse of antibiotics in meat and poultry production – typically when animals are not sick – has contributed to growing rates of antibiotic resistance and has become a pressing public and environmental health issue. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the top five health threats facing the United States. And a recent report by the World Health Organization found that the world is running out of antibiotics to fight antibiotic-resistant infections.         

In 2015, Governor Brown signed SB 27, a landmark law that restricts the routine use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry produced in California. However, many supermarkets and grocery stores sell raw meat sourced from outside of the state where California’s restrictions on antibiotic use do not apply.

“Consumers have a right to know what they’re putting in their bodies and bringing into their homes,” said Avinash Kar, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s health program. “With the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, it’s critical that we use antibiotics less frequently so that they’ll be effective when our lives depend on it. . This ordinance puts information into the hands of San Franciscans so they can select brands that are using antibiotics more responsibly and move away from those that are not.”

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