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Question: Are meat and poultry products labeled “antibiotic-free” safer?

Antibiotic free meat

When shopping at the meat counter, you might notice some meat and poultry products labeled “antibiotic-free” or “raised without antibiotics.”

However, these labels are about marketing, not about food safety, says veterinarian Dr. Kristen Obbink with the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education in Ames.

If a farm animal is given antibiotics, federal law requires that the animal must undergo a withdrawal period before it can be marketed for processing.

“There are a number of systems in place which are backed by science and government-regulated to ensure that even if an animal receives antibiotics, there are no longer any residues of antibiotics in our food,” Obbink says.

An increasing number of meat and poultry companies are adopting antibiotic stewardship plans to ensure the appropriate use of antibiotics in livestock farming, Obbink says.

“It’s really important that we practice good stewardship by making sure we are choosing the right drug, given at the right dose and given for the right duration of time,” she says.

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