The effectiveness of many life-saving medicines is waning. One study concluded that a single strain of resistant bacteria claimed more than 1,400 lives in New York City alone in 1995. The American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and nearly 400 other groups have called for an end to the routine use of medically important antibiotics as feed additives for healthy livestock and poultry.
The massive use of antibiotics in animal agriculture helps speed the development and spread of resistant bacteria. The majority of antibiotics used in the U.S. are fed to animals at industrial-scale farms – not to treat disease, but to promote faster growth and to compensate for stressful, crowded living conditions.
In August of 2005, Environmental Defense, the North American division of Compass Group and Smithfield Foods, Inc. unveiled a first-of-its-kind purchasing policy to curb antibiotic use in hog and chicken production. Compass Group is the leader in contract food service and hospitality, and food industry giant Smithfield Foods is its primary pork supplier.
The partnership grew out of purchasing policies Environmental Defense had earlier forged with McDonald's and Bon Appetit (which is owned by Compass) to reduce antibiotic usage in animal agriculture.
The partnership had the following overarching goals:
- Retain efficacy of antibiotics for human health
- Establish guidelines for responsible antibiotics use in animal agriculture, especially in pork
All three partners collaborating on a national purchasing policy for Compass that:
- Eliminated the use of medically important antibiotics as growth promoters in pork that suppliers control for the duration of its life
- Set clear guidelines for the appropriate use of antibiotics
- Created a comprehensive program for third-party verification of supplier compliance