UCLA Hospitals Start Serving Meats Free of Antibiotics

AntibioticsHealthier meal options are now available at both hospitals in the UCLA Health System, who announced today that they have begun offering grass-fed beef and chicken breasts that are free of antibiotics on their menus for patients and visitors. The move is part of the health system’s fight against antibiotic resistant superbugs.

The UCLA Medical Center hospitals are located in Westwood and Santa Monica. The two hospitals are big players in the move toward antibiotic-free, healthier meats. According to the UCLA Antimicrobial Stewardship Program director, Dr. Daniel Uslan, the hospital’s change is a symbolic step in their fight to raise public awareness about antibiotic resistance and U.S. meat industry practices.

Uslan says not participating in the battle against antibiotic resistant bacteria would be like having the hospital run an obesity clinic, but continue to serve fried food in the cafeteria. Uslan views antibiotics as resources that must be nurtured, just like forests and fisheries. If not protected they will no longer be available.

UCLA Medical Center cafeterias no longer serve fried foods, and have adopted other practices in their fight to promote a healthier community, such as using biodegradable disposable plates and silverware.

Last September the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that every year more than 2 million people in the U.S. get infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 die as a result. UCLA’s Uslan says overuse of antibiotics in meat animals such as cows and chickens has helped bacteria become resistant to common medications, leading to more antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

More than 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to farm animals, according to FDA statistics. The CDC recommends antibiotic use only for treating disease not promoting growth.

An additional danger in creating superbugs is when people do not use antibiotics properly, or do not take the drugs as directed. This includes not taking the entire cycle of medication. Another hazard is the overuse of antibiotics, such as using them to treat colds or other viral infections that do not respond to antibiotic use.

Bacteria that respond to treatment die when antibiotic medication is given. Bacteria that are resistant to drugs, now known as superbugs, do not respond to treatment and endanger patients. Scientists say the evolution of superbugs may be slowed by if antibiotic use is limited, since opportunities for resistant bacteria to evolve increase the more the drugs are used.

UCLA is nationally recognized for its efforts to promoted health and sustainability. They received awards from Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth in 2013 for offering vegetarian menu selections, reducing food waste, and increasing composting. UCLA participates in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative and other national campaigns.

The two hospitals serve more than 3.4 million meals each year, and say they are always looking for ways to improve their services.

Dr. David Feinberg, CEO of the UCLA Hospital System, says they are excited about the change to serving meats free of antibiotics, and sees it as another way for them to support their vision of a healthier community. Diners are reacting positively to UCLA’s changes.

By Beth A. Balen

UCLA Newsroom
LA Times
Santa Monica Patch