Comments fly following Tyson's announcement

by Allison Sebolt
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WASHINGTON — Yesterday’s announcement by Tyson Foods, Inc., Springdale, Ark., that it will market its fresh poultry as antibiotic-free, triggered several responses from at least one other poultry company and industry organizations.

After Tyson’s announcement, the National Chicken Council released a reminder that "antibiotics are used safely and responsibly in the broiler chicken industry to improve bird health, prevent or control microbial infections or to treat sick birds. Usage is sparing, in keeping with principles of judicious use."

The N.C.C. said while usage is in accord with regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and directions from pharmaceutical manufacturers, each company makes it own decisions on use of antibiotics in keeping with F.D.A. regulations and judicious use principles.

Along with N.C.C., Murray’s Chickens, issued a statement acknowledging Tyson’s decision to adopt a practice the South Fallsburg, N.Y.-based company always has followed.

"It is always exciting when a Fortune 500 multinational such as Tyson follows the lead of a spirited, family-owned and operated business such as Murray’s Chickens," the company said. "Antibiotics are valuable to treat diseases in humans, not to raise chicken. We encourage Tyson to keep that finger on the consumer pulse and join Murray in raising poultry the way we always have. In today’s marketplace, the future of any company, no matter how big or small is in responding to consumer demand. Tyson’s announcement reiterates this and should be considered a victory for the consumer."

Richard Carnevale, vice-president, regulatory, scientific and international affairs for the Animal Health Institute chimed in, noting the move to providing products raised without antibiotics gives consumers choices about price and the type of production system they choose to support with their food dollar. Antibiotic-free, however, does not necessarily imply safer food, he said.

"Studies show that meat raised from animals without the use of antibiotics is not safer than conventionally raised products," Mr. Carnevale said. "Recent studies have demonstrated the public health benefits of using antibiotics to keep animals healthy."

Industry activists had their opinion as well.

"It’s big news when the largest chicken producer in the country uses an antibiotic-free label to gain a competitive advantage," said David Wallinga, M.D., director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and a member of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition.

The K.A.W. group said it "decries the use of antibiotics in animal feed because it spurs the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that spread to humans via our food, air and water."

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