Starting next fall, U.S. schools will have a new option for the type of chicken they purchase for school lunches. School Food FOCUS (Food Options for Children in the United States) and The Pew Charitable Trusts worked together to create the new Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU) standard which will be verified by the Department of Agriculture. The standard allows producers to use antibiotics only under the supervision of a veterinarian and only to appropriately control and treat disease, not to promote growth. public health community is concerned that the more antibiotics are used in any setting, the more likely it is that bacteria will evolve to resist them, resulting in so-called “superbugs.” “This new standard will guide producers who want to use antibiotics in the most limited way possible in order to protect animal health, reduce overall antibiotic use, and slow the growth of superbugs that threaten human health worldwide,” said Gail Hansen, senior officer for Pew’s Antibiotic Resistance Project, on Thursday when CRAU was announced. Hansen added that one thing setting CRAU apart from previous industry and government actions is that it’s ready now. Tyson Foods, the country’s top chicken producer, is the first company to undergo a successful audit, with USDA verifying the process at a plant in New Holland, PA. “We believe this is a responsible, balanced approach to address this issue of antibiotic resistance, and yet maintain the health of the animal,” said Chris Daugherty, Tyson’s vice president of Animal Well-Being Programs Technology. Last week, Tyson announced that it would strive to quit using human antibiotics in its chicken flocks by the end of September 2017. The company stated that it has already stopped using all antibiotics in its 35 broiler hatcheries, requires a veterinarian’s prescription for antibiotics used on broiler farms, and, since 2011, has reduced by more than 80 percent the human antibiotics it uses to treat broiler chickens. Kathy Lawrence, director of strategic development at School Food FOCUS, said that CRAU was created in response to a demand for more sustainably produced food and aimed at chicken because it is the main source of protein in school lunches. “Until now, schools had only two choices when purchasing chicken for children, conventional or raised with no antibiotics ever,” said Jennifer LeBarre, executive director of nutrition services for the Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, CA. She said her district has purchased chickens raised without any antibiotics when possible, but that the 10,000 pounds purchased each month accounts for less than one-quarter of the chicken served. “In the face of tight supply, even tighter budgets, insufficient cooking facilities and limited availability, not every district is able to purchase ‘no antibiotic ever’ chicken,” LeBarre said. The adoption of CRAU standards will help reduce antibiotic use in chickens by providing a third option. “As we currently have one Tyson complex audited at this point … we know that it will take time to build up the inventory of chicken to be able to serve what we know is a very large demand,” Lawrence said. “We hope to see CRAU-labeled products served in all schools, as well as hospitals, other institutions, and eventually available to the public at large.” Animal pharmaceutical company Elanco said in a statement that it supports the new standard which “builds on the industry’s continued progress to preserve shared-class antibiotic effectiveness while providing choice to consumers.”