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Urban School Food Alliance Announces Standard on Responsible Antibiotic-Use in Turkey

NEW YORK (March 11, 2021) – The Urban School Food Alliance, a membership organization of 15 of the largest school districts in the United States that together serve nearly 4 million students daily, announced today that it is issuing a standard for responsible antibiotic use in turkey products to get healthier food for students and fight antibiotic resistance.

Turkey is the second most served protein in Alliance schools, coming after chicken, for which the Alliance issued a similar standard in 2014. According to research from NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), the turkey industry is the most intensive user of medically important antibiotics, dispensing more drugs per kilogram of animal than any other sector.

“Issuing this standard for responsible antibiotic use in turkey is the next step in the Urban School Food Alliance’s commitment to provide the healthiest food to students in all its member districts,” said Dr. Katie Wilson, Executive Director of the Urban School Food Alliance. “By leveraging the collective purchasing power of Alliance districts, this standard sends an important message to the turkey industry and helps to improve the quality of food sold to the school marketplace.”

Informed by suppliers, non-profit partners and government agencies, the Urban School Food Alliance has created the following standard:

The Urban School Food Alliance Responsible Antibiotic Use Turkey Standard requires that all turkey products must be produced under a USDA process verified program that includes compliance with the Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use Standard (CRAU).

The majority of Urban School Food Alliance members, including school districts in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas Austin, Orlando, and Portland (OR), have committed to use this standard for future turkey products. The Alliance will also post the standard on their website as a resource for other districts. Setting a clear standard will help drive change in the K-12 food industry and broader food system—letting producers and manufacturers know that this is the kind of food that the Urban School Food Alliance is looking for.

“High quality food is vital to the health and well-being of students, and the adoption of this standard will help us better serve our students,” said Michael Rosenberger, Executive Director of Dallas ISD’s Food and Child Nutrition Services. “It’s important that our purchasing standards help make healthy food available for all school children, and we urge all school food service associations, purchasing groups, and school districts to also adopt this standard.”

Even as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, bacterial resistance to antibiotics continues to be one of the greatest health threats in the world today. In the United States, the vast majority of antibiotics are used in animal production and given to entire groups of animals, even when none are sick. The World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts warn that the continued misuse and overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and meat production drives the rise and spread of bacterial resistance.

“The routine use of antibiotics in meat production is a growing threat for the health of our children and the effectiveness of these life-saving medicines,” said Lena Brook, Director of Food Campaigns at NRDC. “The Urban School Food Alliance is improving the quality of food served to students and helping shift the food system away from rampant antibiotic overuse with this move. The Biden Administration should follow their lead and take swift action to tackle the antibiotic resistance crisis.”

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