U.S – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have initiated an exploratory sampling program targeting antibiotic residues in cattle touted as raised without antibiotics.

This is in response to several petitions, comments, and letters  received from a wide range of stakeholders asking the agency to reevaluate its oversight of animal-raising claims, specifically, how they are substantiated.

In addition, the veracity of “negative” antibiotics claims (e.g., “raised without antibiotics” or “no antibiotics ever”) has come into question.

Eligible establishments involved in cattle slaughter and the production of products bearing labels such as “No Antibiotics,” “No Antibiotics Ever,” “Raised Without Antibiotics,” “Antibiotic Free,” “No Antibiotics Administered,” or similar claims will be subject to sampling.

Under this program, FSIS will collect liver and kidney samples from qualifying cattle, while ARS will employ an analytical method capable of detecting over 180 veterinary drugs representing various major antibiotic classes.

This extensive analysis aims to ensure the absence of antibiotic residues in cattle claimed to be raised without antibiotics.

In cases where antibiotic residues are detected, FSIS will promptly issue a letter to the respective establishment, detailing the sample results.

Additionally, the establishment will be advised to conduct a root cause analysis and implement corrective measures to prevent the presence of misbranded products in the market.

Conversely, if an establishment does not receive a letter, it signifies that their test results align with the labeling claim, confirming the absence of antibiotic residues.

FSIS will also be issuing a revised industry guideline to recommend that companies strengthen the documentation they submit to the agency to substantiate animal-raising claims.

The agency plans to strongly encourage use of third-party certification to verify these claims.

Informing future measures

The outcomes of this comprehensive sampling program will serve as a vital source of information for FSIS.

The data collected will inform decisions on whether the agency should mandate the submission of laboratory testing results to substantiate “raised without antibiotics” claims.

Furthermore, it will guide the potential implementation of a new verification sampling program, ensuring the integrity of antibiotic-free labeling claims in the cattle industry.

This proactive initiative underscores the commitment of the USDA to uphold the accuracy and reliability of antibiotic-related claims in cattle production, reinforcing consumer confidence in the authenticity of “No Antibiotics” labels.

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