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 people 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 on a routine basis. 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, approcimately 70% of all medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in livestock and poultry

Antibiotics are meant to be given in precise doses to treat specific types of infections. When they are used on a routine, or regular basis by farming operations, it increases the likelihood that bacteria resistant to the antibiotics will grow and spread, 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 estimated that unless action is taken, these infections could 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 200,000 petitions from citizens and families, built a coalition of more than 30,000 doctors and members of the medical community, and enlisted the support of farmers who raise their livestock without misuing 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.  


View video credits here.

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 commitment to stop serving any meat raised on antibiotics.

Most recently, we helped move KFC, the fried chicken giant, to commit to a policy that by the end of 2018 all chicken purchased by the company in the United States will be raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. As a major chicken buyer, and a company whose supply chain is far reaching, KFC’s new commitment could push the U.S. chicken industry drastically away from the routine use of medically important antibiotics.  

These were huge victories to protect public health, but now, other major chains need to take action. 

Unsurprisingly, the industry is fighting back, trying to confuse consumers with misleading arguments about whether these commitments mean sick animals won't get treatment or whether there are antibiotics in the meat. But we know that's not true, and not the problem here. The problem is that farms are giving antibiotics to animals on a routine basis as a preventative measure — not just to treat sick animals. That routine use can turn farms into breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria. And 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, KFC 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

Result | Public Health

Protecting Marylanders from toxic lawn chemicals

Toxic chemicals in lawn pesticides pollute our environment and our health. These chemicals can drift into our air, waterways and homes. In 2015, Maryland PIRG helped win restrictions on toxic lawn pesticides in Montgomery County. The restrictions allow only safe pesticides to be used on lawns, playgrounds, recreation areas and children’s facilities’ grounds.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

Juliana Bilowich: Maryland’s chemical protections

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?

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

Congress poised to pass sweeping reform of chemical law

Congress is on the cusp of passing the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. chemical safety laws in 40 years, a rare bipartisan accord that has won the backing of both industry officials and some of the Hill’s most liberal lawmakers.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, which has not been reauthorized since President Gerald Ford signed it into law in 1976, regulates thousands of chemicals in everyday products including detergents and flame retardants. It has come under sharp criticism as ineffective from all quarters, including environmentalists who back stronger federal oversight and chemical companies that are now subject to a patchwork of more stringent rules in some states.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Maryland PIRG | Public Health

Maryland PIRG statement on TSCA Reform

 

Unless Congress makes changes to the preemption clauses in the current bill being negotiated, it would effectively halt state action to restrict a toxic chemical while the EPA is assessing its safety – a years-long process that will leave us all at risk. When it comes to health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling. We need sensible TSCA reform in order to keep us safe – not a step backward.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

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!

> Keep Reading

Pages

Media Hit | Public Health

Indoor Chemical Exposure Linked to Childhood Asthma

According to a report by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, common household products could cause your child to develop asthma. The report found that exposure to chemicals in common consumer products, such as air fresheners or cleaning supplies, can cause or aggravate childhood asthma. "A large and growing body of scientific research shows that many chemicals and consumer products and building materials are found in the air and are linked to asthma and asthma symptoms," Joanna Guy from the Maryland PIRG said. As of 2010, the number of children with asthma in Maryland exceeded the national percentage. In Baltimore City, about 40 percent of students are diagnosed with the disease and it is listed as the leading cause of absences. The Maryland PIRG is calling on the governor to publish a list of the chemicals. 

Read More at: http://www.foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/report-indoor-chemical-exposure-linked-childhood-asthma-24145.shtml#.UrhpoSRQ1wt

> Keep Reading
News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Public Health

REPORT: CHEMICALS IN COMMON CONSUMER PRODUCTS LINKED TO CHILDHOOD ASTHMA

A new report, released today by Maryland PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Foundation, found that exposure to chemicals in common consumer products can cause or aggravate childhood asthma.

> Keep Reading

"Trouble in Toyland" report warns of toy hazards

Concerned about inadvertently stuffing the stockings with lead or other dangerous metals and chemicals? The Maryland Public Interest Research Group has just the study for you. Its "Trouble in Toyland" report -- the 28th annual toy-safety survey by U.S. PIRG and its state affiliates -- warns people to "be wary when shopping this holiday season." Though researchers have seen improvements over the years, they're still finding problems ranging from high levels of lead to choking hazards.

> Keep Reading

Toy Safety Concerns Outlined in Annual Report

Toxic chemicals, choking hazards and volume so loud it can damage hearing. You can find all three in toys that are on store shelves here in Maryland; something a state public interest group found after they took a closer look at the toys for sale locally.

> Keep Reading

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, Nov. 26 – Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to Maryland Public Interest Research Group’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report which was released in Baltimore at Sinai Hospital, and in Annapolis at the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. The survey of hazardous toys found that despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

One step closer to TSCA reform | Emily Scarr

On Thursday the Senate passed an update to the federal chemical safety law, the 1976 Toxics Substance Control Act (TSCA), by unanimous consent. The language of the legislation is an updated version of the Senate bill, S.697 (the “Udall/Vitter bill”). The House passed their version this summer. The next phase of the process is a conference committee between House and Senate to reconcile the differences in the House and Senate versions of TSCA reform.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

It keeps getting better | Steve Blackledge

By next summer, all of the chicken served on Papa John's pizzas and poppers will be raised without antibiotics. The pizza chain's announcement adds them to a growing list of restaurants that are helping to stop the overuse antibiotics on large industrial farms.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

In Anapolis: Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working presents to House working group | Emily Scarr

The House Environment and Transportation Committee’s Workgroup on Antibiotics held its second set of hearings on antibiotic resistance.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Not-so-secret-Santas in Congress Using Spending Bill To Roll Back Health, Safety, Wallet Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

With spending authorization for the federal government set to end on December 11, Congressional leaders are working with powerful special interests on their not-so-Secret-Santa lists to use spending bills as vehicles to gut health, safety and wallet protections popular with the general public but not with Wall Street or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They know they cannot win a fair fight. So they’re loading up the must-pass funding bill with so-called “riders,” which are unrelated policies that couldn’t get passed on their own. Everything we fought for in Wall Street reform, including the CFPB, is on the chopping block. So are many other PIRG health, safety, wallet and democracy priorities.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Big Win: Montgomery County votes to restrict the cosmetic use of toxic lawn pesticides, protecting public health and our environment. | Emily Scarr

The Montgomery County Council just voted to restrict the cosmetic use of toxic lawn pesticides, protecting public health and our environment.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your donation supports Maryland PIRG's work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates, and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code