USDA Statement on Antibiotics in Meat

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Why doesn't the USDA require meat companies to label whether their meat has been administered antibiotics?

Animal Raising claims related to the use of nonuse of antibiotics: FSIS has regulations in 9 CFR 317.8 that require all labeling features to be truthful, accurate, and not misleading.  The Federal establishment is responsible for ensuring labels are in compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA; 21 U.S.C. § 601, 607), the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA; 21 U.S.C. § 451, 457) and the implementing of those regulations. This includes all mandatory label requirements as prescribed in Part 317 (subsection 2) and 381 (Subpart N) of Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (9 CFR 317.2 and 381 Subpart N).

USDA does not mandate that labels state whether or not meat or poultry has been administered antibiotics.

Labeling bearing claims on how animals for a meat or poultry product were raised are evaluated by FSIS prior to use.For the past 25 years FSIS has evaluated animal raising claims by considering information on animal production practices submitted by companies as part of their label approval requests.  See below the required information.

How does the USDA regulate the terms "antibiotic free" and "raised without antibiotics" on labels?

FSIS typically evaluates such claims by reviewing testimonials, affidavits, animal production protocols, and other relevant documentation provided by animal producers.  This information may include: 1) a detailed written protocol explaining controls for assuring the production claim; 2) A signed affidavit declaring the specifics of the animal production claim(s) and that the claims are not false or misleading; and; 3) Product tracing and segregation mechanism from time of slaughter and/or further processing through packaging and wholesale or retail distribution.

What is your position on these antibiotics creating antibiotic resistant bacteria and "superbugs" that could be potentially harmful to humans?

Labels bearing animal raising claims are required to be approved prior to use in commerce, with the understanding that inspectors can be assured as to the source of the product.  Inspectors monitor labels applied to meat and meat products at the establishment.

Currently there is not a regulatory definition for “raised without antibiotics.” FSIS does approve the claim "raised without antibiotics." Examples of such claims include “No Antibiotics Administered," "Raised Without Antibiotics," "No Added Antibiotics "and "No Added Antibiotics Ever.”

We do not approve “antibiotic free.”  “Antibiotic Free” claims are not permitted because there is no way of determining the accuracy of this claim through present technology. Technology is limited because any test has minimum detectable levels. In addition, each antibiotic has different minimum detectable levels.  

Consequently,  all labels must be approved by the FSIS Labeling and Program Delivery Staff (LPDS).  For general information on FSIS labeling procedures, see: