This week, the Obama administration hosted a gathering of food producers, medical professionals, hospital representatives and restaurant workers--including staff from Tyson Foods, Walmart and Foster Farms--urging them to promise to reduce their use of lifesaving antibiotics in livestock, use of which is becoming ineffective due to overuse. This forum marks the first time that any White House administration has tackled this specific problem.

Because antibiotics are increasingly having no effect on food animals, thousands of Americans die each year from contracting illnesses that are immune to antibiotics. If this continues, a new trend will emerge in which continued loss of life due to simple illnesses will increase. Another factor driving new federal attention is strong consumer demand for healthier meat and poultry options.

Some of the first efforts to be initiated by the administration will take place at the White House itself. Civilian government eateries will source meat from animals that were raised with fewer antibiotics, and the Presidential Food Service that feeds the First Family will serve meat that is completely antibiotic and hormone free.

In regards to reducing antibiotic use, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just made a final rule that requires farmers to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian in order to dispense antibiotics to their animals. It also requires veterinarians to adhere to specific state mandates. Previously, farmers had the freedom to purchase antibiotics with minimal restriction, if any.

Consumer advocates don’t believe the White House’s efforts are strict enough on the agricultural industry. They are also not pleased with the FDA’s 2013 rule that stopped farmers from using antibiotics to accelerate animal weight gain, but still allowed its use to prevent disease--a loophole that consumer advocates don’t believe really changed farmers’ use of antibiotics.

The White House administration's efforts are the latest in headlines related to antibiotics. In recent months, both McDonald’s and Tyson Foods have announced plans to either reduce or completely eliminate their use of antibiotics in the livestock they source.