A recently passed San Francisco ordinance is designed to provide consumers with more informed choices, but Diane Sullivan, an advocate for low-income families, says it will make food more expensive. Sullivan debated the consequences of the law at a hearing at City Hall on Monday.
The new ordinance requires local food stores to notify consumers if meat or poultry has been treated with antibiotics. According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatricians, the overuse of antibiotics in livestock can lead to drug-resistant strains of diseases being passed on to humans.
Supporters of the law say the ordinance will help consumers eat healthier, but Sullivan says it will drive food prices higher. And that will only make life more difficult for low-income families who are already struggling to stay above water in San Francisco, one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation.
Sullivan describes these kinds of laws as “food gentrification,” a process where regulation pushes food out of the hands of low-income people. She said the new law will create another layer of paperwork for the producers and they will pass the cost onto consumers.
“Anytime the price of food goes up it affects low-income families,” she said. “One-quarter of San Franciscans struggle with hunger.”
Sullivan said a lot of poor mothers are faced with the choice of “paying my rent or feeding my children.”
She compared the San Francisco law to Proposition 2, which outlawed the confinement of livestock, but in the process raised the price of eggs. According to Sullivan, her native Massachusetts passed Question 3, a similar animal safety law that also raised the price of eggs. She said Cornell University conducted a study on the cost of implementing Question 3. According to the researchers, it cost $250M to implement the regulation in the first year.
“Question 3 is a regressive food tax, a social injustice that will harm those often neglected in these debates,” said Sullivan in a Boston Globe editorial.
Sullivan believes the San Francisco law is part of an agenda to eventually drive the price of meat up to the point it becomes too expensive. Many liberal groups already advocate that people give up meat because it’s bad for the environment and inhumane.
“The human species needs to eat less meat. Why? Take your pick of reasons, from the detrimental impact global meat consumption has on the climate, to the ethics of the mass farming of sentient animals,” said Robin Scher in an article on the liberal website Alternet.
In an article in the local CBS affiliate, San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy said an environmental group motivated the law.
However, Sullivan isn’t the only person who thinks the new ordinance is a bad idea.
“The San Francisco ordinance adds an entirely unnecessary, costly and potentially confusing layer of paperwork to this issue,” said a statement by the Food Marketing Institute. “The retail industry supports FDA’s actions to ensure the judicious use of antimicrobials in food animal production.”