to Growing Demands, Purchasing Group Signs Organic Deal
(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2006) Responding to the growing demand in the health care industry for health food options, the first ever contract between a major health care buyer and organic food distributor was recently signed by MedAssets, a leading purchasing organization for the health care industry and United Natural Food Incorporated (UNFI), the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor to the natural and organic foods industry. Announced at the CleanMed 2006 Annual Meeting held in Seattle, Washington, where 500 health care leaders gathered to discuss ways to reduce the health care industry’s impact on the environment, the deal will give over 2,000 U.S. hospitals access to natural and organic foods.
In 2005, MedAssets purchased more than $200 million worth of food and supplies for 2,400 hospitals. According to Jamie Harvey, healthy food coordinator for Health Care Without Harm (HCHW), an international coalition working to reduce the environmental impact of the health care industry, “This deal is tremendously important because it demonstrates the growing awareness in the health care industry about the health impacts of current large-scale agribusiness practices” (See Daily News).
As a demonstration of that demand, HCWH announced they had a nationwide list of signatories for its Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge. The hospitals supporting the pledge include the 41-facility Catholic Healthcare West system and numerous other top-ranked hospitals in the U.S.
According to Ms. Harvey, “Hospitals throughout the country are starting to recognize that the food they serve their patients and staff can impact health far beyond their walls.” Ms. Harvey continues, “More and more, hospitals are recognizing that how our food is produced and distributed affects the health of people and communities. Hospitals are demanding food that is not only more nutritious, but is also grown in ways that are better for the environment equitable for farmers and farm workers.”
To date, steps that hospitals have taken include: purchasing milk produced without bovine growth hormone, and poultry and meat produced without antibiotics; supporting local communities by hosting farmers’ markets and sourcing local produce; and serving fair trade coffee, organic produce and locally grown foods and incorporating integrated pest management practices (See Healthy Hospitals).
Tyrone Hayes, PhD, an endocrinologist and professor at University of California, Berkeley, gave the keynote address at CleanMed 2006. Dr Hayes is renowned for his research on atrazine, a pesticide widely used on corn that disrupts hormones even at very low doses and is regularly found in drinking water sources.