Imagine a world where the medicines we use to treat common illnesses, like strep throat and ear infections, no longer work.
Public-health advocates argue this kind of public health crisis could fast become a reality if antibiotic use in the agriculture industry is not reduced or eliminated. Currently, 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used by the meat and poultry industries to accelerate the growth (fatten) of most beef, chicken and pork sold in U.S. supermarkets. This practice is believed to result in “superbugs,” bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics, that can cause deadly diseases in humans.
Other countries already recognize the danger this poses. The European Union banned the use of antibiotics in 1999. But while numerous experts have already called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban antibiotics use in animal feed, their arguments have been stymied by the pharmaceutical and large-scale livestock industries.
Last week, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, released a report on consumer attitudes to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. In partnership with FixFood, they concurrently launched the Meat Without Drugs campaign in hopes of inspiring citizen action. The report and campaign aim to empower citizens and retailers with the economic, labeling and consumer insight data necessary to make more informed food choices, ultimately shifting antibiotic use through purchasing power.
“Although antibiotics remain legal to use on food animals, supermarkets can choose not to carry, and consumers can choose not to buy, meat and poultry from animals that are fed antibiotics. The vast majority of all meat and poultry produced in the United States is either sold to consumers in supermarkets and grocery stores or consumed in restaurants and schools and other institutions. (The remainder, about 15 percent, is exported.),” says the report.
Consumer Reports sent shoppers to 136 stores of the 13 largest supermarket chains in 23 states to see what meat and poultry products raised without antibiotics are being sold and for how much. In addition, they also conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. residents in March 2012. Key findings include:
The Meat Without Drugs campaign calls on citizens to urge grocery stores to only sell meat from animals raised without antibiotics, starting with Trader Joe’s.
To learn more, watch the video below from Food, Inc. Director Robert Kenner and narrated by actor Bill Paxton. You can sign the petition here to get involved.