November 21, 2014

By Kendra Klein, SF Bay Area PSR Senior Program Associate

On October 24, 64 California hospitals participating in the Healthy Food in Health Care program, coordinated through SF Bay Area PSR, served over 13,200 meals that featured meat or poultry raised without routine antibiotics.

In total, more than 350 hospitals across the country joined forces to send a clear message on Food Day: Antibiotics should be saved for sick people, not given to healthy animals to promote faster growth or to compensate for unsanitary factory farm conditions.

A recent report from the Consumer Reports National Research Center, prepared in collaboration with SF Bay Area PSR and others, found that 85% of doctors surveyed had diagnosed one or more of their patients with a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection within the past year and that 93 percent of doctors are concerned with the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities for animals that are not sick.

Four times the amount of antibiotics are used for industrial animal agriculture (29 million pounds) compared to human medicine (seven million pounds). This overuse in animals contributes to antibiotic resistant “superbugs.” These superbugs are responsible for 23,000 deaths each year, eight million hospital stays, and $55 billion in health costs and lost productivity.

On Food Day alone, participating hospitals nationwide collectively spent $146,345 on 16,600 pounds of chicken, 10,000 pounds of beef, and 5,000 pounds of pork and other meats; in California, hospitals spent $19,156 on over 3,300 pounds of meat and poultry raised without routine antibiotics.

Many hospitals that participated in Food Day regularly include meat raised without routine antibiotics in patient meals and cafeterias offerings.  When amplified over the course of a year, their purchases represent more than 46 million meals and $53 million spent on more sustainably raised meat and poultry. Good news for health care. Good news for patients, providers, and staff. Good news for consumers as the health care industry helps to grow sustainable meat production.

The Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC) program leverages the combined power of hospitals across the country to drive market and policy changes that protect antibiotics and prevent their overuse in animal agriculture.”  HFHC is a national program of Health Care Without Harm; in California, it is coordinated through SF Bay Area PSR.

Read Program Associate Dr. Sapna Thottathil’s blog post “Doctors Concerned About Antibiotic Overuse” on HCWH’s website.

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About the Calculations
Participating hospitals provided the estimated number of pounds of meat and poultry raised without routine antibiotics to be served in cafeterias and/or patient meals on Food Day (October 24), as well as their total cost. The total number of meals was estimated using the standard meat protein serving size reported in hospitals of 4oz (raw) / 3oz (cooked). This serving is also in line with USDA My Plate Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommendations to consume less than an average of 5.5oz of meat equivalent daily for individuals over 9 years of age.