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Obama Pushes Healthier Meat Options at Federal Cafeterias

Memo asks agencies to favor contractors that offer meat and poultry free of growth-promoting antibiotics.

The Obama administration on Tuesday asked federal agencies to encourage meat and poultry raised with fewer antibiotics in their cafeterias.

The memorandum is part of a broader effort to address growing concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Overuse of certain antibiotics for non-medical reasons – such as promoting growth in livestock – contributes to the problem.

Obama ordered the General Services Administration within 120 days to ask food service vendors in the cafeterias it runs to offer meat and poultry that complies with responsible antibiotic-use policies. Cafeterias should continue to offer alternatives to keep prices competitive, the memo stated, and GSA should ensure that vendors label food appropriately so customers can tell which meats are compliant with antibiotics standards.

GSA will be required to track and analyze customer demand, product supply and market prices for three years after the new policy starts, and report the results annually to the Office of Management and Budget and the Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, established in September 2014.

Federal agencies with cafeterias separate from GSA would have the option of collecting and reporting similar data, which will be used to help craft a contracting preference for vendors that offer meat and poultry with minimal antibiotics. The memo sets a deadline of 2020 for the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council to issue a proposed rule implementing the contracting preference.

Obama's directive leaves room for exceptions, including those “to ensure acquisitions of such products can be made at fair and reasonable prices and within a reasonable timeframe.” But at a minimum, federal employees can expect to start seeing more meat and poultry options in their cafeterias soon. 

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