In August, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced a formal change to the definition of the food label claim “Raised without the use of antibiotics” (RWA) to allow the use of coccidiostats in products labelled and sold as RWA.
This is an important change for the Canadian chicken industry and mirrors the rules south of the border in the United States (U.S.). Canadian chicken farmers producing RWA chicken were previously at a disadvantage compared to U.S. producers, as the use of coccidiostats was not permitted for RWA production in Canada, but was permitted in the U.S. This change effectively allows Canadian farmers to have access to the same products that are being used to produce RWA in the U.S.
The use of the claim “Raised without the use of antibiotics” on a package of chicken indicates that the flock was raised without the use of products classified as antibiotics for animal health maintenance, disease prevention or treatment of disease. The CFIA does not allow the use of the phrase “antibiotic-free” on a label.
This is partly because all chicken is “antibiotic-free” in the sense that no antibiotic residues are permitted to be present in the meat. This is due to mandatory withdrawal periods (the time that must pass after the last treatment until the animal is processed) and other precautions required by the government and observed by the chicken processors. Adherence to withdrawal times is inspected by the CFIA.
Canada’s chicken industry made a proactive change in 2014 to eliminate the use of Category I antibiotics, those most important to human health. This reduction strategy is a significant step for the industry and we will continue to work with government and stakeholders to ensure responsible use and address this important issue.
For videos describing the issues of antibiotic resistance and use:
For more on the chicken industry’s responsible use of antimicrobials:
The Antimicrobial Use Reduction Strategy:
The Chicken & Antibiotics Infographic: