Subway pressed on antibiotic use

by Lawrence Aylward
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Subway roast beef sandwhich
Consumer groups urge the company to phase out meats produced with antibiotics.

MILLFORD, Conn. – In a June 23 letter sent to Frederick De Luca, president and CEO of Subway, a coalition of consumer groups and other organizations urged the company to address the issue of antibiotic use in livestock production by using only antibiotic-free meat products.

The coalition, representing leaders from 20 organizations cited a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that “the rise of bacteria resistant to commonly relied-upon antibiotics is one of our most pressing public health threats.”

Each year in the US, 2 million people contract antibiotic-resistant infections and 23,000 die as a result, the letter stated. “The nation’s health experts agree that feeding low doses of antibiotics to animals that are not sick contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” it said.

The coalition called on De Luca and Subway to:

• Define a time-bound action plan to phase out the routine use of antibiotics across all Subway meat supply chains, including turkey, beef and pork.
• Act now to end the routine use of medically important antibiotics in the production of chicken sold in restaurants.
• Adopt third-party auditing of antibiotics-use policy and benchmark results showing progress in meeting the goals described above.

“Antibiotics important for human medicine should only be used to treat sick animals and, on rare occasions, for non-routine disease control, but never for growth promotion, feed efficiency, or routine disease prevention,” the letter continued. “While we will continue to push FDA to adopt stronger policies on antibiotics use in animal agriculture, companies like Subway can make a vital contribution to stemming antibiotic resistance by disallowing routine antibiotics use among your suppliers. Subway can also play a role in encouraging better animal husbandry on farms. Reduced crowding, improved diets, more hygienic conditions and longer weaning periods, among other changes, can minimize the need for prophylactic drugs.”

The coalition mentioned in the letter that Subway can join the ranks of McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A and many others in the industry that have responded to growing consumer demand for meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics.

“We appreciate your attention to our concerns and are aware that Subway is testing a new Chicken Caprese Sandwich in Southern California, described as produced with ‘no antibiotics ever,’” the letter concluded. “In the coming months, we hope you will move quickly to serve only meat and poultry produced without routine antibiotics in all Subway restaurants, and help protect the effectiveness of these essential medicines.”

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