What does CRAU stand for?

Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU)

What is CRAU?

CRAU is the first responsible use standard verified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that allows for minimal use of medically important antibiotics in poultry production, and only when prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. Verification by USDA, a government agency accountable to Congress and the public, is essential to ensuring the integrity of CRAU. Poultry companies interested in meeting CRAU must undergo regular USDA on-site audits to substantiate conformance.

Why was the CRAU standard created?

Poultry is the #1 protein on the plate in school food. School Food Focus developed the CRAU standard in 2014 to minimize the use of antibiotics in poultry production and give schools an option to purchase poultry raised with responsible antibiotic use. In late 2017, School Food Focus formally transferred the standard to ARAC.

The CRAU standard was created in response to consumer demand for such products; it is a market-driven, grassroots solution to antibiotic resistance, a critical public health challenge. Antibiotic resistance—an inevitable consequence of antibiotic use in human medicine and animal agriculture—is a serious and escalating threat. The overuse of antibiotics has given rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Two million human illnesses and at least 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since any antibiotic use encourages the development of resistance, it is important to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in all settings—including hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, and in food production. By purchasing meat and poultry raised with responsible antibiotic use, schools and other institutions help address this problem—and encourage suppliers to adopt better practices, which slows the emergence of superbugs and keeps antibiotics working for longer.

The CRAU standard offers an alternative that strikes the right balance for animal and human health, and gives purchasers a reliable method of determining which suppliers practice responsible antibiotic use. It represents a big win for public health by reducing the use of antibiotics in food animal production.

What does the CRAU standard accomplish?

    • An essential protocol for antibiotic use that aligns with international standards and provides for the treatment of sick animals while encouraging the redesign of production systems to minimize both sickness and antibiotic use
    • Reduced antibiotic use in poultry production/preservation of antibiotic effectiveness for when it is most needed
    • Supply of affordable responsible antibiotic use products for schools, hospitals and other institutions
    • Transparency and accountability in antibiotic use claims and practices
    • 3rd party verification by USDA:
      • Regular on-site audits
      • Publicly posted auditor checklist, auditor guide and official listing of approved CRAU programs
      • Potential to expand into larger markets (e.g. retail and restaurants) as well as to other species (i.e. pork and beef) for even greater reductions in antibiotic use and greater protection of public health

Who manages the CRAU standard?

CRAU is managed by the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center (ARAC) at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. It was initially developed by School Food Focus in 2014 and staff from ARAC worked closely with School Food Focus over the years to help develop and ensure the CRAU standard is rooted in the latest scientific developments. In late 2017, School Food Focus formally transferred the standard to ARAC.

Is CRAU available for all meat and poultry (chicken, turkey, pork and beef) products?

Currently, the standard covers poultry (chicken and turkey) products intended for bulk sale to schools, hospitals, and other institutional buyers. Therefore, any chicken and turkey producer can apply for CRAU certification. It is designed for both large and mid-sized suppliers. As demand for CRAU products increases, there is potential to expand CRAU products to the retail market and to include pork and beef.

Who can purchase CRAU products?

Chicken and turkey produced according to the CRAU standard is available to school districts, hospitals and other institutional buyers through their commercial purchases. CRAU was designed to help make CRAU chicken and turkey available to institutions of all sizes across the country.

When can antibiotics be used?

Antibiotics with analogues in human medicine can only be used therapeutically to: 1) treat disease in poultry diagnosed with bacterial disease; and 2) control disease in poultry exposed to infectious bacteria. In both circumstances, this must be validated by a licensed veterinarian and exacting documentation for USDA auditors to review.

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When can’t antibiotics be used?

Antibiotics with analogues in human medicine are not allowed for disease prevention, growth promotion, feed efficiency, weight gain or any other purpose that is not medically justified.

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Can antibiotics be administered pre-hatch?

No. Administration of antibiotics pre-hatch is not allowed. In the case of turkeys, regular administration of antibiotics on the first day of life is also prohibited.

What’s the difference between CRAU and No Antibiotics Ever or Raised Without Antibiotics?

No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) or Raised Without Antibiotics (RWA) labels mean antibiotics were not used in production. Completely eliminating antibiotic use in all food animal production is not our goal. The CRAU standard is designed to help minimize the use of antibiotics so that they work when we need them – to treat sick people and sick animals alike.

How does CRAU affect food safety if antibiotics are used less often?

The standard will not affect the quality or safety of food on the plate. The CRAU standard is not about food safety, but is instead a public health standard aimed at preserving antibiotic effectiveness for human health over the long term. It deals with antibiotics administered to poultry throughout their life cycle. It does not address antibiotic residue in the meat itself, since U.S. law requires all antibiotic use to be discontinued in advance of slaughter so that no residue remains.

How can I learn more about the CRAU process?

The CRAU standard and all materials relevant to the audit process (auditor guide, audit checklist, etc) can be accessed by clicking here.

Is there a list of approved CRAU programs?

See the USDA CRAU page for the most up to date list of approved CRAU programs.