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Consumers Union Urges Major Reduction Of Antibiotics In Food Animal Production To Protect Public Health

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. 

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs from the farm are showing up on meat and poultry and causing serious illness and even death.  Consumer Reports found in 2010 that two-thirds of the chicken samples it tested were contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter or both and that more than 60 percent of those organisms were antibiotic-resistant.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked drug companies and livestock growers to voluntarily eliminate growth promotion uses of antibiotics over the next three years. Consumers Union has long urged the FDA to take stronger action and has called on the agency to restrict the use of antibiotics in food animals to the treatment of veterinarian-diagnosed sick animals only.   

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 and has taken recent stands in support of other sustainable purchasing practices.

"The threat to public health from the overuse of antibiotics in food animals is real and growing," said Halloran.  "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, which includes more than a dozen consumer, environmental, and animal welfare organizations, 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 been unwilling to meet with Consumers Union to discuss the issue. 

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