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An about-face by SUBWAY on antibiotics?

Article-An about-face by SUBWAY on antibiotics?

U.S. restaurants will only serve animal proteins that have never been treated with antibiotics but transition expected to take until 2025.

SUBWAY Restaurants announced Oct. 20 that it has "elevated" its current antibiotic-free policy. The brand recently committed to transition to only serving chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine, but the latest announcement included serving only protein from animals that have never received antibiotics across all of its 27,000-plus U.S. restaurants in early 2016.

Beginning in March 2016, SUBWAY said it will serve chicken raised without antibiotics, and turkey raised without antibiotics will be introduced in 2016, with a completed transition expected within two to three years. SUBWAY said pork and beef raised without antibiotics will transition within six years after that and be completed in 2025.

Dennis Clabby, executive vice president of SUBWAY's Independent Purchasing Cooperative, said, "A change like this will take some time, particularly since the supply of beef raised without antibiotics in the U.S. is extremely limited and cattle take significantly longer to raise, but we are working diligently with our suppliers to make it happen."

SUBWAY released the following statement via popular social media websites, “We’re always working to make our products even better. That’s why we’re transitioning to serve only meats that have never received antibiotics starting in 2016.”

The new policy announcement caused a social media firestorm of disapproval from the livestock industry, resulting in what appeared to be further clarification a few days later from the popular sandwich chain. However, the company did not issue a new statement nor change its initial press announcement to add greater clarity, and therefore left some questioning as to where it really stands on the issue.

 Reports were that in the weeks leading up to its decision, the company was threatened by a coalition to deliver over a quarter million petitions to its headquarters calling for a ban on antibiotics. Those groups and others loudly appauled the initial move by the company, and that may have put SUBWAY in a position of how best to go back and reissue its policy without causing backlash from that side..

On its website, the company now says its goal is to reduce and eliminate the use of antibiotics in the food it serves, but added that it recognizes antibiotics are “critical tools for keeping animals healthy and that they should be used responsibly to preserve their effectiveness in veterinary and human medicine.”

“Our policy is that antibiotics can be used to treat, control and prevent disease, but not for growth promotion of farm animals,” the website stated.

As such, SUBWAY said it is asking its suppliers to do the following:

  • Adopt, implement and comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA’s”) guidance for industry 209 and 213, which requires that medically important antibiotics not be used for growth promotion. Visit the FDA site to learn more.
  • Assure that all antibiotics use is overseen, pre-approved and authorized by a licensed veterinarian before they are administered to any animal.
  • Keep accurate and complete records to track use of all antibiotics.
  • Adhere at all times to all legal requirements governing antibiotic withdrawal times. This assures that antibiotics have been eliminated from the animals’ systems at the time of slaughter.
  • Actively encourage, support and participate in research efforts focused on improving animal health while reducing antibiotics use.
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