According to Food Safety News, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is going to investigate claims made on certain meat packaging labels, including the phrase "antibiotics free."
The Consumers Union recently raised concerns about how antibiotics are used to raise animals. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the FSIS has updated guidance materials that will be sent to meat packing companies, and the agency will look into claims made on the labels.
"Under FSIS guidelines, when producers/companies request to make the marketing claim 'raised without antibiotics' on their labels, we inform them that this means 'no antibiotics in their feed water or injection including no ionophores' during the animal's life," Vilsack said, the source reported.
Another claim under question is "no antiobiotic residues," which is found on a number of meat packages. Although the wording may suggest that the animal didn't receive antibiotics, that's not necessarily true. The animal could have been administered antibiotics throughout its life and then taken off the drugs before being sent for slaughter, which would limit the amount of remaining residue in the final product for human consumption.
Vilsack said these types of claims may have to be more specific. For example, rather than "no antibiotic residues," the label would read "raised without antibiotics the last 120 days prior to finish."