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, approximately 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 misusing 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

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

President Trump takes crucial step of activating Defense Production Act to get more ventilators

In response to a critical shortage of ventilators needed to keep severe COVID-19 patients breathing, President Donald Trump ordered General Motors to produce the life-saving machines under the Defense Production Act. The Department of Health and Human Services will be responsible for implementation of and follow through on that order. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips, Public Health

Wins worth celebrating | Emily Scarr

The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up the 2020 legislative session weeks earlier than expected. While the public health crisis meant some of our legislative priorities didn’t make it through this year, we still have a lot to celebrate.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Democracy, Health Care, Safe Energy, Solid Waste

Wins, losses, and 'almost did its' for 2020 | Emily Scarr

The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up the 2020 legislative session last week, weeks earlier than expected. While the public health crisis meant some of our legislative priorities didn’t make it through this year, we still have a lot to celebrate.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Testimony: Electric School Buses | Emily Scarr

We support House Bill 1451 requires that beginning in October 2023, any buses purchased by County School Boards be zero-emission school buses and by October 2026, and buses purchased by contractors for use by County School be zero-emission school buses.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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

New analysis uncovers unsafe blood pressure medication distributed in US

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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | US PIRG | Public Health

Statement: Chick-fil-A completes phasing antibiotics out of its chicken supply

In a big win for keeping antibiotics effective, Chick-fil-A announced today that it has officially met its 2014 goal of eliminating chicken raised with antibiotics from its supply chain and now serves No Antibiotics Ever(NAE) chicken in all 2,400+ of its U.S. restaurants.

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

Statement: Proposal to take flavored vaping products off market a crucial tactic to stop youth epidemic

In response to growing concerns about the health threats of vaping and its skyrocketing use among youth, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced today that the Food and Drug Administration is preparing to finalize guidance to prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products other than tobacco flavored.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Chain Reaction III

The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 out of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups who authored the report found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

> Keep Reading
Report | Center for Environmental Health and Maryland PIRG Foundation | Public Health, Food

Kicking the Can?

Bisphenol A, often called BPA, is one of the most widely used and thoroughly studied toxic chemicals. Despite hundreds of scientific studies showing that exposure to BPA is linked to significant health concerns - diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer - it is still used in food cans that millions of Americans buy every day. 

> Keep Reading
Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Public Health

Get the Lead Out

Lead is contaminating drinking water at schools and pre-schools across the country.  As our report shows, states are so far failing to make the grade when it comes to keeping lead out of drinking water at school.

> Keep Reading
Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Public Health

Trouble In Toyland 2016

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

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

Testimony: Flavored Tobacco Products | Matt Wellington

The tobacco industry has evolved over time to create new, highly addictive products, but one thing hasn’t changed--flavored tobacco products hook kids. A government study found that 81% of youth who have ever used tobacco started with a flavored product, and most tobacco users start young.[1] 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Testimony: Family and Fire Fighter Protection Act | Emily Scarr

Testimony on the Family and Fire Fighter Protection Act to restrict the use of flame retardant chemicals in furniture, mattresses and children’s products. These chemicals are not effective for fire safety. Commonly used chemical flame retardants are linked to cancer and other health impacts.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Testimony: Fire Fighting Foam and PFAS Chemicals | Emily Scarr

HB619/SB420: Public Safety - Fire Fighting Foam and PFAS Chemicals.

We support this bill to restrict the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS for training purposes and to conduct a study on the use of PFAS in food packaging

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Testimony: Increasing and Expanding Tobacco Tax | Matt Wellington

Read our testimony in support of raising the tobacco tax and ensuring all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes are taxed are taxed at the same level.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

'Our Kids Deserve Better': Lead Found In Water In Two Dozen Maryland Schools

State-mandated testing revealed that two dozen schools in the Baltimore region have elevated levels of lead in their water, while hundreds of schools have yet to be tested. Efforts are underway to apply filters to the affected pipes, or replace them entirely, but progress is slow.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

Some people and businesses are feeling intense pressure to resume economic activity, but Maryland’s recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases and limited testing and tracing capacity indicates that we are not ready to begin the process of reopening safely as outlined in Governor Hogan’s Roadmap to Recovery. Here, we’ll look at the numbers that explain why. 

News Release

Baltimore: On May 13, Governor Hogan announced plans to lift the statewide stay at home order and ease state restrictions on retail, manufacturing, houses of worship, and some personal services. His announcement gives individual jurisdictions power to make decisions regarding the timing of reopening locally.

Blog Post

Marylanders are eager to move beyond the shelter-in-place phase of the coronavirus response. But many are still anxious about safety. What are public health experts recommending?

News Release | Maryland PIRG

Baltimore:On April 24th, Governor Hogan released “Roadmap to Recovery,” his administration’s plan to safely ease state restrictions on business, education, and recreation implemented in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The plan sets out 3 phases of reopening, with subphases within each phase, a set of 4 criteria for moving from one phase to the next, and the ability to move back if conditions worsen. 

News Release | Maryland PIRG and partners

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – May 7, 2020 – Today Governor Hogan vetoed House Bill 732 which would have taken a stand to protect public health by increasing funding for tobacco control, funding emergency response to COVID-19, and raising the tobacco tax.

Members of the Maryland Tobacco Free Coalition including the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and MD PIRG make the following statement: 

Public Health

Responding to the COVID crisis

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever, we need to work together to ensure that our government has a coordinated, strategic response to safeguard the public’s health, protect consumers from emerging dangers and ensure people can still participate fully in our democracy.

 

Public Health

Bill to protect families and firefighters from toxic chemicals becomes law

In early May, Gov. Larry Hogan allowed the Family and Firefighter Protection Act to go into effect without his signature. The bill — backed by Maryland PIRG — protects consumer and firefighter health by restricting the use of potentially toxic chemical flame retardants in furniture, children’s products and mattresses.

 

Public Health

EPA review insists glyphosate not linked to cancer

On Jan. 30, EPA finalized its review of the main active ingredient in Bayer/Monsanto's ubiquitous weedkiller, Roundup. Despite its designation as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization's cancer research agency, the EPA reaffirmed its stance that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. Read more about our campaign to ban Roundup. 

 

Public Health

Ban Roundup

As cancer victims hold Monsanto accountable in court, governors should act to ban Roundup unless and until it's proven safe.

 
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



Maryland PIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.