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 for livestock and poultry

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." And 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 Maryland 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

Maryland PIRG is organizing the public to push for change. We’ve collected more than 100,000 petitions from citizens and families, built a coalition of more than 20,000 doctors and members of the medical community, and enlisted the support of farmers who raise their livestock without antibiotics.

Large farming operations and the drug industry have resisted change, and have so far blocked efforts in Congress and from government agencies. But now, we're working to convince big restaurants to pressure these farms to change their practices. 


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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. So we're calling on KFC 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

Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

Testimony to support Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017 SB422/HB206 | Emily Scarr

It’s time to stop the routine use of human antibiotics on farms: the public health community and public agree. It’s good for public health and good for business. Maryland PIRG strongly support SB422/HB206.

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Health Professionals Applaud Introduction of Keep Antibiotics Effective Act

Maryland legislators have introduced new legislation to restrict the use of human antibiotics in animal agriculture.

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Starbucks Ditches Routine Use of Medically Important Antibiotics in Poultry

Starbucks announced a commitment today to serve only poultry raised without the routine use of medically important antibiotics in U.S. stores by 2020 after dialogue with Green Century Capital Management, a leader in environmentally responsible investing. The Seattle-based chain’s commitment may help push the meat industry further away from overusing life-saving medicines.

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‘Trouble in Toyland’ report finds recalled toys still available for sale online

Baltimore, MD – Toys that have been recalled for high levels of lead, dangerously powerful magnets, or other hazards can still be found in some online stores, according to the Maryland Public Interest Research Group Education Fund’s 31st annual Trouble in Toyland report www.toysafetytips.org. The survey of hazardous toys found that shoppers should be wary this holiday season.

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More Than 350,000 Urge KFC to Prevent Abuse of Antibiotics in Its Chicken Supply

Today, representatives from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Food Animals Concern Trust (FACT) will deliver more than 350,000 petitions from consumers nationwide to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s (KFC) headquarters in Louisville, while calling on the nation’s largest fried chicken chain to end the routine use of antibiotics by chicken producers in its supply chain. The petition signatures were also collected by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and CREDO Action. 

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Maryland PIRG is disappointed with the TSCA bill that was passed Tuesday by the Senate and will soon be sent to the President. When it comes to public health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling – meaning, minimum levels of protection should be set, not maximum levels. By preempting state efforts to regulate toxic chemicals, this bill does more harm than good.

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The morning before my mom told me she had breast cancer, we went shoe shopping to pick out sandals for the coming summer. I stared down at those sandals as she told me the news, and because I didn’t dare ask my first question – how long until it gets bad – I asked my second question: How did this happen?

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Public Health

Trouble in Toyland 2015

For 30 years, Maryland PIRG Foundation has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

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Report | Maryland PIRG and Consumers Union | Public Health

Prescription For Change

Our September 2014 survey of physicians paints a grim picture of the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections. The overwhelming majority of surveyed doctors reported that one or more of their patients had been diagnosed with a presumed or confirmed case of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in the past twelve months. They also expressed concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities on healthy animals in order to promote growth and prevent disease.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Public Health

Weak Medicine

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than 2 million people per year in the United States, causing more than 23,000 deaths. State governments, the FDA and other branches of the federal government should take steps to protect human health from the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can develop on factory farms.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation and Washington Toxics Coalition | Public Health

What's on Your List?

Parents want and expect the products they use to care for their children to be safe and free of harmful chemicals. But our nation’s toxic chemical laws are weak and ineffective and many harmful chemicals get into everyday consumer products without the public’s knowledge. Taking steps to remedy this problem, Washington State passed the Children’s Safe Products Act in 2008 (CSPA). CSPA set up requirements for makers of children’s products being sold in Washington to report to the state if these products contain chemicals on a list of 66 Chemicals of High Concern to Children.

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An Unnecessary Burden

A large and growing body of scientific research shows that many chemicals in consumer products and building materials are linked to asthma and asthma symptoms.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Public Health Internships: Apply Now!

 

Are you motivated to make a change in the world - starting with your own community? Do you want to gain hands-on experience working in the public health field? Apply now!

We are currently accepting applications for the unpaid Fall and Spring Public Health Internship position!

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Free Webinar: Engaging Maryland Businesses in Chemical Policy Reform | Juliana Bilowich

Maryland PIRG is teaming up with the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council to present a free webinar! Maryland businesses will learn about chemical regulations that affect business; discuss chemicals and products that affect the health of employees and customers; and learn how to engage in the policy reform process!

Join us on Wednesday, June 29th, from 2-3pm to help make your business voice heard!

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Blog Post | Public Health

More Harm than Good: Statement on Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Passage | Juliana Bilowich

Maryland PIRG is disappointed with the TSCA bill that was passed Tuesday by the Senate and will soon be sent to the President. When it comes to public health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling – meaning, minimum levels of protection should be set, not maximum levels. By preempting state efforts to regulate toxic chemicals, this bill does more harm than good.

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Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) | Juliana Bilowich

We are disappointed with the TSCA bill that was released by the House and Senate leaders and we urge Congress to reject the bill. When it comes to public health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling. By unnecessarily preempting states’ efforts to regulate toxic chemicals, this bill does more harm than good.

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Apply to be a Public Health Intern this summer or fall! | Juliana Bilowich

Want to work alongside lead Maryland PIRG staff?

 

Want to gain valuable work experience?

 

Want to work on important public health issues affecting our daily lives?

 

Apply now for an unpaid internship this summer or fall!

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Priority Action

We're calling on big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Tell KFC to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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