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Cargill to Phase Out Growth-Promoting Antibiotics in Signature Turkey Brands

Cargill announced this week that it will stop using antibiotics for growth promotion in raising its turkeys.

The company says the changes to its two signature brands — Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms — makes Cargill the first major turkey producer to have a USDA Process Verified Program for this purpose.

A Cargill press release stated that the move is “based on consumer research and feedback.” However, Steven Roach, a senior analyst with Keep Antibiotics Working, said that while it’s encouraging that the company is recognizing what its consumers want, the move is not enough to address the rise of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics will no longer be used for growth promotion, but they will still be used for treating illnesses and for disease prevention. As with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Guidance #213 which phases out the use of  antibiotics for certain uses, there are concerns that antibiotic use won’t decrease because it will simply be labeled as “disease prevention” in place of “growth promotion.”

“This is too little, too late,” Roach said, “and if they want to get ‘kudos’ for doing something, they should go beyond what FDA is mandating.”

It has been three years since the national outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infection linked to Cargill ground turkey, and Roach thinks there has been good evidence for giving up growth promotion since 2000.

Rather than just “a marketing campaign for how people view their product,” Roach said he wants to see Cargill show more commitment to reducing overall antibiotic use by tracking the amount used before and after the end of growth promotion.

“While this decision has the potential to modestly reduce overall antibiotic use for our turkeys, the health and wellness of turkeys is extremely important to Cargill, and we do not want animals to suffer due to illness,” Mike Martin, Cargill’s director of communications, told Food Safety News. “Antibiotics allow us to prevent, control and treat disease in our turkey flocks. That’s why, under the USDA Process Verified Program, antibiotics will still be administered under the direction of a veterinarian. We want to ensure that only healthy animals are used for food.”

Cargill says that Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkeys will be available without the growth-promoting antibiotics this Thanksgiving and that all of the company’s flocks will be raised without growth-promoting antibiotics by the end of 2015.

© Food Safety News
  • Gene

    Steven Roach makes a very valid point, it will be necessary to track the actual amount of antibiotic use because if “growth promotion” can simply be substituted by “disease prevention” then it will be necessary for regulators to monitor levels to recognize a real impact. It could end up simply being a marketing ploy by Cargill to label the product in a deceptive manner to garner consumer support.

  • Eric Powell

    When performing consumer research, I wish companies like Cargill would target the population (like me) that prefers 1) animals not to suffer from preventable illnesses, 2) use of antibotics provided it falls under proper food safety guidelines, and 3) use of unbiased scientic research and data rather than opinion-generated reports from biased groups. I am certain the same people targeted in Cargill’s research also take cold medicine when they have a cold and pain medicine when they have aches and pains (and hangovers!).
    Lastly, I don’t understand how the Cargill outbreak is related to the use of antibiotics considering Salmonella originates from many sources, usually sanitation related. Perhaps I missed the direct link between antibiotics and Salmonella contamination. I would be interested in reading about that link as it would be the first time ingredients (including GMO and non-organic) have been positively linked to food safety concerns rather than opinions.

  • flame

    Not good enough Cargill. You’ll only deceive the consumers who buy and eat your turkey.