• Thursday, September 4, 2014

    What’s in a food label? Antibiotic free

    This summer I started a blog series on food labels. I’ve covered labels you see on meat products like Organic, Natural, Grass-fed, and Raised without Hormones.

    Another claim you commonly see with ‘Raised without Hormones’ is ‘Raised without Antibiotics,’ ‘No Antibiotics Added’ or ‘Antibiotic Free.’

    Big Island Beef

    About two years ago I wrote a blog post about why antibiotics are used and Antibiotic Residues and Antibiotic Resistance. I’m not going to get into those topics in this post, just stick to the labels.

    First, let me address Antibiotic Free.

    Just like the similar label concerning hormones, the ‘Antibiotic Free’ claim is misleading and shouldn’t be found on a meat label. You may see it on some marketing claims that are not regulated by USDA, though.

    All of the meat you buy in the US should be Antibiotic Free. Even if the farmer used antibiotics, those antibiotics shouldn’t be in the meat because the FDA regulates how antibiotics are administered to animals. The time when the farmer must stop using antibiotics before the animal is harvested is known as the withdrawal time. Those times differ between types of antibiotics and the species of animal, and they are explained on the antibiotic label.

    Withdrawal times allow the animal to metabolize the antibiotic and eliminate it from the body so that no residues will be left in the meat. Therefore, all meat should be free of antibiotics.

    Back to the Label

    When a meat company uses the ‘No antibiotic added’ or ‘Raised without Antibiotics’ label, they must be able to prove to the USDA that no antibiotics were used to raise that animal.

    Basically, that’s it. If the animal has never been given antibiotics, the meat company can use that label.

    This has probably been the simplest of the labels in my labeling series.

    Have you seen any other labels that you have questions about?