Consumer group calls for reduction in antibiotic use

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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YONKERS, NY – Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, called for a major reduction in the use of antibiotics in food animal production because the group says “the overuse of antibiotics promotes the spread of drug-resistant superbugs and makes antibiotics less effective for people.”

The Center For Disease Control and Prevention is kicking off its "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week" (Nov. 12-18), which aims to raise awareness about how growing antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most pressing public health threats. The CDC is emphasizing the need for doctors and patients to work together to improve antibiotic use in order to preserve these critical medications for the future.

"Doctors and patients need to be much more careful about how they use antibiotics if we're going to preserve their power," said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union. "But we also need to get smart about the overuse of antibiotics in food animals. It's time to stop the daily feeding of antibiotics to healthy food animals which makes these life-saving medications less effective for people."

In 2010, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the CDC, noted that "there is strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans." Numerous health organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, Infectious Disease Society of America, and the World Health Organization, agree and have called for significant reductions in the use of antibiotics for animal food production.

According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance is leading to higher treatment costs, longer hospital stays, and unnecessary deaths. The CDC estimates that nearly 100,000 people die from infections they pick up in the hospital every year. The vast majority are caused by bacteria that have developed resistance to the antibiotics used to treat them.

Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration asked drug companies and livestock growers to voluntarily eliminate growth promotion uses of antibiotics over the next three years.

In June, Consumers Union launched its Meat Without Drugs campaign to encourage grocery stores to move away from selling meat and poultry raised on a steady diet of antibiotics. The consumer group is initially targeting Trader Joe's, the national specialty grocer, because it already offers some antibiotic-free meat and poultry.

"The threat to public health from the overuse of antibiotics in food animals is real and growing," Halloran said. "Trader Joe's can be a leader in the campaign to protect public health and preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by selling only meat raised without drugs."

The Meat Without Drugs campaign has presented Trader Joe's with a petition signed by more than a half million consumers urging the grocer to stop selling meat and poultry raised on antibiotics. Trader Joe's has not yet met with Consumers Union to discuss the issue.

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