Stop The Overuse Of Antibiotics on Factory Farms

A GROWING THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 23,000 Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and warns that the widespread overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is putting our health at risk.

WHAT IF ANTIBIOTICS STOPPED WORKING?

If you are like most Americans, you or someone in your family has been prescribed antibiotics to treat an illness. Maybe it was a simple ear infection, or strep throat. Or maybe it was something potentially life-threatening, like pneumonia or a post-surgery infection. 

We assume that when we get an infectious illness the antibiotics our doctors prescribe for us will make us better. But what if they didn’t? Medical experts, including from the World Health Organization, are warning that if we don’t stop the overuse of antibiotics, they could stop working — with potentially grave consequences for public health.

ANTIBIOTIC OVERUSE ON FACTORY FARMS

Despite these warnings, many factory farms are giving antibiotics to healthy livestock every day. Why? Crowded and unsanitary conditions, along with other practices used on factory farms can put animals’ health at risk

But, instead of treating sick animals with antibiotics when they get an infection, many farming operations just distribute antibiotics to all of their animals as a preventative measure. Factory farms also discovered that giving animals a regular dose of antibiotics made them gain weight faster. And now, up to 70% of antibiotics sold in the United States are used on livestock

Antibiotics are meant to be given in precise doses to treat specific types of infections. When they are used on a daily basis by farming operations, it increases the likelihood that all kinds of bacteria, including the ones that make people sick, will develop resistance, and our life-saving medicines won't work.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections." Abd a recent study found that unless action is taken, these infections would kill more people worldwide by 2050 than cancer does today.

HEALTH PROFESSIONALS RAISING THE ALARM

The calls for action from the public health community are growing louder, and more urgent. For instance, World Health Organization officials said: "Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill." 

Doctors are also overwhelmingly concerned. In a poll released by U.S. PIRG and Consumer Reports, 93% of doctors polled said they were concerned about the practice of using antibiotics on healthy animals for growth promotion and disease prevention. In addition, 85% of doctors polled said that in the last year, one or more of their patients had a presumed or confirmed case of a drug-resistant infection

IT’S TIME FOR ACTION ON ANTIBIOTIC OVERUSE

Large farming operations and the drug industry have resisted change, and have so far blocked efforts in Congress and from government agencies. That's why we're bringing together citizens, families, farmers, doctors and members of the medical community to convince big restaurants to pressure these farms to change their practices. 

BIG FARMS & RESTAURANTS NEED TO DO THEIR PART

In March 2015, we helped convince McDonald’s to stop serving chicken raised on our life-saving medicines. Shortly after, Tyson Foods, a major chicken producer and McDonald's supplier, followed suit. Then, in October, we convinced Subway, with more restaurants than any other chain in the United States, to make a commitments to stop serving any meat raised on antibiotics, starting with chicken by the end of 2016.

These were huge victories to protect public health, but now, other major chains need to take action. That's why we're focusing on KFC — the largest chain of fried chicken restaurants in the world.

KFC recently took a step in the right direction by updating their antibiotics policy, but it's not strong enough to fully protect our life-saving medicines. KFC needs to go further — and if they do, it could lead to a majority of the U.S. chicken industry raising their chickens without medically-important antibiotics.

Unsurprisingly, the industry is fighting back, trying to confuse consumers with misleading arguments about whether these commitments mean sick animals won't get treatment. But we know that's not true, and not the problem here. The problem is that farms are giving antibiotics to animals in their daily feed as a preventative measure — not just to treat sick animals. That's why our call is for meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics. 

With thousands of Americans dying, and millions more getting sick from antibiotic-resistant infections every year, it's time for more chains to follow the lead of Subway, McDonald's, and many others.

If we don’t take decisive action soon, we could face a world in which life-saving antibiotics no longer work. This is why we need your help today. 

 

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

CDC estimates at least 35,000 die from drug-resistant infections annually

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News Release | WashPIRG Foundation | Public Health, Antibiotics

Consumer campaign calls on Wendy’s to “hold the antibiotics” from its beef supply chain

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

CDC estimates at least 35,000 die from drug-resistant infections annually

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its new Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States report, which estimates at least 35,000 Americans die annually from infections that antibiotics can no longer effectively treat.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

REPORT: Most Fast Food Chains Get Poor Grades for Overuse of Antibiotics in Beef

The fifth annual Chain Reaction report grades the top fast food and fast casual chains on antibiotic use in their beef supply chains. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

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A new analysis of publicly available information from the FDA by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund finds only 26 percent of a class of recalled blood pressure medications have been assessed for carcinogen contamiantion -- and the majority had some lots with higher levels than the FDA considers safe.

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News Release | WashPIRG Foundation | Public Health, Antibiotics

Consumer campaign calls on Wendy’s to “hold the antibiotics” from its beef supply chain

The consumer and public health advocacy organization WashPIRG Foundation is calling on Wendy’s to stop serving beef raised with the routine use of antibiotics. WashPIRG Foundation and its partner groups are calling on the third-largest burger chain in the United States to follow the lead of its rival, McDonald’s, which recently announced a detailed antibiotics policy for its beef supply chain.

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Chain Reaction V

The Chain Reaction V report grades the top fast food and fast casual chanins on antibiotic use policies for their beef supply chains. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its new Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States report, which estimates at least 35,000 Americans die annually from infections that antibiotics can no longer effectively treat.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The Chain Reaction V report grades the top fast food and fast casual chanins on antibiotic use policies for their beef supply chains. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The fifth annual Chain Reaction report grades the top fast food and fast casual chains on antibiotic use in their beef supply chains. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

A new analysis of publicly available information from the FDA by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund finds only 26 percent of a class of recalled blood pressure medications have been assessed for carcinogen contamiantion -- and the majority had some lots with higher levels than the FDA considers safe.

News Release | WashPIRG Foundation

The consumer and public health advocacy organization WashPIRG Foundation is calling on Wendy’s to stop serving beef raised with the routine use of antibiotics. WashPIRG Foundation and its partner groups are calling on the third-largest burger chain in the United States to follow the lead of its rival, McDonald’s, which recently announced a detailed antibiotics policy for its beef supply chain.

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