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. 


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 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

Broad Coalition lays out path forward on TSCA reform | Emily Scarr

Today, 125 organizations,  including Maryland PIRG, sent a letter to House and Senate committee leaders spelling out in detail how to move forward on TSCA reforms and find the best from the House and Senate versions of the bill. Read the letter.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health, Food

Will Yum! Brands Commit to Better Antibiotic Stewardship Policies?

"Despite these successes, we need to re-double our efforts to counter new threats from superbugs that increasingly diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics. We will continue to ramp up our consumer awareness and advocacy campaigns to ensure that the superbugs don't win."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Nicely Done, Attorneys General | Steve Blackledge

This month 12 state attorneys general highlighted the importance of state power to regulate toxic chemicals. We thank them for their efforts. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Lobby Day: Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working | Emily Scarr

On January 20th, the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working headed to Annapolis to build support for our campaign to stop the overuse of antibiotocs on industrial farms.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Progress in 2015 and hope for the new year | Anya Vanecek

This was a big year for the fight to save antibiotics. Now we’re looking to the future and looking forward to continuing our efforts to stop the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Testimony on HB0229: Prohibition of Child Care Products Containing Flame-Retardant Chemicals - TDCPP

Studies link chlorinated Tris to neurological damage, hormone disruption, mutagenicity and cancer,    and it has the same chemical structure as banned chemicals like DDT, PCBs and Dioxin. Chlorinated Tris tested positive for mutagenicity in the 1970s and as a result it was voluntarily removed from children’s pajamas in 1977. Since the action was voluntary, companies can legally use it in other consumer products without informing government officials or the public.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Toy Safety Tips | Emily Scarr

For 28 years, Maryland PIRG Foundation has worked to identify unsafe toys. Below are our top tips to help you choose the safest toys for the children in your life.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Bag-O-Glass? Tips on finding both the visible and invisible toy dangers. | Emily Scarr

This iconic SNL skit "Bag 'O Glass," features toys you should NOT buy, courtesy of Dan Akroyd and Candice Bergen. Today, toys are safer then ever.... but there are still some toys to avoid.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Celebrating the mandatory toy safety standard—An important provision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

These days, we can mostly expect that toys sold on store shelves are tested to meet adequately strict safety standards — but that hasn’t always been the case. In 2007, toys with beloved childhood icons like Thomas the Tank Engine and Elmo were recalled because they contained excessive levels of lead. Another toy, when swallowed, created a toxic drug; yet another posed serious hazards due to strong magnets that could tear a child’s stomach lining if two or more pieces were swallowed.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

FDA’s BPA Ban: A Small, Late Step in the Right Direction | Jenny Levin

Last week, the FDA announced a ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from infant formula packaging. The rule change should provide some comfort to parents — however, it also showcased the FDA’s sluggish pace of action, and demonstrates to states that they shouldn’t wait for federal action to move forward with public health rules on their own.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

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.

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