Food service company Compass Group North America has announced with partners Environmental Defense and Smithfield Foods what it says is a first-of-its-kind purchasing policy to curb antibiotic use in pork production.

The policy prohibits the purchase of pork in which antibiotics that belong to classes of compounds approved for use in human medicine have been used for growth promotion purposes, it said. It also requires suppliers to report and reduce antibiotic usage over time. Similar requirements will apply to the company’s purchase of chicken. The policy applies to all animals that are raised by suppliers for the duration of their lives.

“As a food service company, the quality and safety of our food supply and customer satisfaction is of paramount importance,” said Cheryl Queen, vice president, corporate communication, of Compass Group.

“We are pleased to be able to use our market position to introduce these improvements in our supply chain. This policy makes business sense for us, and we urge other companies to make the same commitment,” she said.

“We recognize that the effectiveness of human antibiotics has been compromised and we applaud Compass and Smithfield for being the first in the conventional pork industry to take steps to address antibiotic use in pork,” said Gwen Ruta, director of corporate partnerships, Environmental Defense. “This unique collaboration demonstrates that it is both feasible and affordable to reduce the use of antibiotics today in order to help preserve their effectiveness for tomorrow.”

“We are pleased to work with Compass Group and Environmental Defense on this important initiative,” said Dennis Treacy, vice president, environmental, community and government affairs for Smithfield Foods. “We have and will continue to focus our antibiotics use on ensuring the well-being of our animals.”

The overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture and in human medicine can cause the drugs to become less effective. Estimates of antibiotic use in livestock production vary, but there is general agreement that reducing overall use of antibiotics will prolong the effectiveness of these important medicines.

Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer and the main pork supplier to Compass Group, through its hog production subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC, began several years ago to limit antibiotic use through enhanced management practices and now reports the amount of feed-grade antibiotics that are purchased per pound of product sold. Because of these actions, Smithfield is now able to supply pork that meets the needs of Compass North America.