What does ‘antibiotic free’ mean?
At the moment, there is lots of confusion over what ‘antibiotic-free’ means and there is no single definition. Remember that antibiotics are used to treat and prevent disease in animals in all countries, but also for growth promotion in some countries where that practice is still permitted. All animal farming must abide by strict withdrawal periods after an animal has been treated with antibiotics for any reason, to ensure medicine residues do not enter the food chain. So in this sense, all food should be ‘antibiotic-free’. However, we have seen the term ‘antibiotic-free’ used (rightly or wrongly) in a number of different situations, for example: where antibiotics have not been used for the purposes of growth promotion in countries where it is still permitted (such as in the USA); where highest priority critically important antibiotics haven’t been used to treat or prevent disease in livestock; and where no antibiotics have been used ever for any purpose in that animal. There is no standard meaning, and labelling one food that way does not mean another food has antibiotics in it. See specific questions about whether meat from animals treated with antibiotics has antibiotics in it.