Antibiotics are critical, life-saving drugs. Yet, 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to factory farms, primarily for animals to grow faster and endure crowded, unsanitary conditions. This irresponsible use has led to the development of “superbugs” on the farm, and these antibiotic-resistant bacteria are making their way to us through the air, the water, and our food. Now, life-saving drugs may not be effective when we most need them.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration won’t take meaningful action, so we’re asking you, the consumer, to show your support for companies and retailers to help change this system and work to end the overuse of antibiotics. Join us in calling on Trader Joe’s to only sell Meat Without Drugs and help stop the superbugs.
More than 9 billion animals are raised, and slaughtered, in the U.S. every year;
They’re given nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics, or 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S.;
These animals produce over 1.3 billion tons of waste annually, which is left in open ponds and sprayed onto fields.
Water: This waste can contain superbugs and undigested antibiotics. The U.S. Geological Survey found 48% of streams in their nationwide survey carry antibiotic residues (from both animals and humans);
Air: Manure sprayed onto fields isn’t the only way to come across airborne superbugs: driving behind the trucks that transport factory farm animals can expose you to the bacteria as well;
Food: Superbugs are showing up on the meat from factory farms. You would have to buy 59 packages of ground turkey to get one without antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Infections that may be resistant to antibiotics include staph, strep throat, pneumonia, and tuberculosis;
Antibiotic-resistant infections are estimated to cost the US healthcare system more than $20 billion annually;
2 million people in the U.S. contract resistant infections annually and 90,000 of them die.
Our goal – and that of many others working on this issue - is to preserve the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics. We believe that animals should not be fed antibiotics to prevent disease or promote growth. Instead only sick animals should be treated with antibiotics under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Experiences both in the U.S. and abroad show that thoughtful management practices – such as providing animals adequate space, a clean environment, and a vegetarian diet – lead to less than 1% of animals needing treatment from antibiotics.
There are a wide variety of labels in the marketplace related to antibiotics, many of them devoid of meaning or verification. There are four labels consumers should look for when buying meat raised without antibiotics that are meaningful:
For a complete list of labels, including those that are potentially deceptive, please visit Consumers Union.
Yes! If you’re ever sick – no matter if you’re a vegetarian or a carnivore – you may need effective antibiotics to get healthy. We’re all in this together.
Additionally, while superbugs are often found on meat, exposure can come from contamination between foods during handling, processing or cooking. Contamination can also occur through the environment, such as when manure from factory farms, laced with superbugs or antibiotic residues, seeps into ground water or is sprayed onto fields. In fact, manure from these farms is often applied to the soil of vegetable farms as a fertilizer.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates antibiotics in the U.S. The FDA states that, "Because it is well established that all uses of antimicrobial drugs, in both humans and animals, contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary."
In April 2012 the FDA released a final guidance document directed at use of antibiotics in agriculture, The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals. The guidance encourages producers to phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion. However, it still endorses that animals be fed antibiotics to prevent disease, a use that still allows for the routine feeding of antibiotics as is the case with current practices.
Most importantly, it’s voluntary. While the FDA has the authority to regulate antibiotic use more strictly, it has not done so.
The Government Accountability Office offered strong criticism of the FDA and USDA in its September 2011 report, "Antibiotic Resistance: Agencies Have Made Limited Progress Addressing Antibiotic Use in Animals."
Note: The FDA has been sued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animals Concerns Trust, and the Union of Concerned Scientists for its inaction in regulating antibiotics used in agriculture. In June 2012 a federal judge ruled that the FDA has done "shockingly little" and ordered the FDA to re-initiate a process it began in 1977 to adequately regulate antibiotics in order to protect human health. The case is pending…
Yes! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, "Resistant bacteria may be transferred to humans through the food supply or direct contact with animals," and the FDA acknowledges that, "…all uses of antimicrobial drugs, in both humans and animals, contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance…"
What’s more, in February 2012 researchers announced that they had traced a strain of Staphylococcus aureus that transferred from humans to pigs, where it developed resistance to drugs and then transferred back to humans. Their conclusion: "Our findings exemplify a[n]…exchange and underscore the potential public health risks of widespread antibiotic use in food animal production."
In Denmark, the largest pork exporter in the world and a country where the use of antibiotics has been reduced by 50%, Danish authorities estimate costs for pig farmers increased by just 1 percent, or about $1.35 for every pig slaughtered. Additionally, a 2003 Iowa State University study funded in part by the National Pork Board, estimated that if antibiotics were no longer added to feed for hogs, the cost of production would rise by $3.00-$4.50 per hog.
The Institute of Medicine, a nonpartisan group of medical experts who advise the federal government on public health issues, estimates the average U.S. consumer would spend between $5 and $10 more per year on meat if antibiotics were restricted. This equates to about a $.03-.05 increase per pound at the store for meat raised without antibiotics.
The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), sponsored by Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-28), was first introduced to Congress in 2006, although it has yet to be passed by the U.S. House of Representative. According to Rep. Slaughter’s website:
PAMTA would preserve the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics by phasing out the use of these drugs in healthy food-producing animals, while allowing their use for treatment of sick animals. The legislation also requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to apply the same tough standards to new applications for approval of animal antibiotics.
FixFood supports the passage of PAMTA.
Our food system is broken. Meanwhile, more Americans are asking how they can get involved. Sign up and together we can fix the food system.