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

Report | Maryland PIRG | Public Health

Get the Lead Out

Our children need safe drinking water – especially at school where they go to learn and play each day.  Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at schools and pre-schools across the country.  As our report shows, states are failing to make the grade when it comes to keeping lead out of drinking water at school.  Instead of waiting for more testing, we need to proactively remove the lead pipes and plumbing at the root of this toxic hazard for our children.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Study finds weed killer in beer and wine

The last thing you want to think about when you pour yourself a glass of wine or a cold beer is whether it contains even small levels of a potentially carcinogenic weed killer.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics, Consumer Protection, Democracy

2019 Legislative Priorities | Emily Scarr

Maryland PIRG’s mission is to deliver persistent, result-oriented public interest activism that protects consumers, encourages a fair, sustainable economy, and fosters democratic government.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Testimony: The Lead Reduction and Remediation Act | Emily Scarr

Maryland PIRG supports HB1253/SB481 to lower the action level of lead in school drinking water and help schools remediate for lead.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Food

Congress Should Reject Pesticide-Laden Farm Bill

Today, Congress again considers a dirty Farm Bill that would undermine protections for clean water, sustainable farming, and our health.

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

L'Oréal commits to disclose fragrance ingredients

We applaud L'Oréal, the manufacturer behind popular brands like Garnier, Maybelline, and numerous perfumes and colognes, for its commitment today to tell customers the ingredients in its product line. But L'Oréal needs to set a timeline to disclose its ingredients. Customers deserve to know what ingredients we are using, because "we’re worth it."

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

Anti-public health Farm Bill fails in House

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted down the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) by a vote of 198-213. The bill was loaded with provisions that would have put public health at risk and increased the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides. House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) has called for a motion to reconsider.

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

European government agencies order Claire’s to stop selling asbestos-contaminated makeup products

In the wake of a recent U.S. PIRG study showing that U.S.-based retailer Claire’s is selling makeup contaminated with asbestos, a government agency in The Netherlands confirmed the results of U.S. PIRG’s study. The Dutch Health and Safety Authority (ILT) ordered Claire’s to remove several makeup products from Dutch store shelves after the agency’s lab testing confirmed that there is asbestos in two makeup products.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Landmark victory: EU bans bee-killing pesticides

In a historic vote today, the European Union (EU) passed a continent-wide restriction on the use of bee-harming pesticides. U.S. states should pass similar bans to protect our bees and our food.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Our 2018 Legislative Priorities | Emily Scarr

We are halfway through Maryland's 90-day legislative session. There's a lot of work to be done. Here are our top priorities.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Protecting families and fire fighters from toxic chemicals | Emily Scarr

Chemical flame retardants can be found in everything from the toys our children play with to the furniture we use every day. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

During This Intense Hurricane Season: Some Reports and Information On Storms, Chemicals and Public Safety | Kara Cook-Schultz

Hurricane Harvey was a natural disaster, and a devastating one at that. During and after the hurricane, we learned anew that it’s not only the initial storm that threatens life and limb, but also chemical facilities that are hit.  As Irma bears down on Florida, we hope for the best outcome for the people of Florida. We also want the state to prepare for the worst. In that spirit, here are some resources and information on storms, chemicals and public safety.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Victory! P&G commits to disclose fragrance ingredients | Emily Scarr

Today we won our campaign of over a year to convince P&G to increase disclosure of ingredients in "fragrance."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

EPA’s Pruitt Met with Dow Prior to Favorable RulingDev GowdaKara Cook-Schultz

On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts. The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials, but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Maryland PIRG

Annapolis — Governor Hogan has joined the rapidly growing movement across the United States calling for a transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. Unfortunately, his proposal falls short on delivering the clean energy future its title suggests.

Blog Post

Maryland's 2020 Legislative session begins on January 8th. We'll release a full agenda soon, but in the mean time here are our top priorities.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Food and Drug Administration issued a policy today that would take many flavors of cartridge-based e-cigarettes such as Juul temporarily off the market due to their appeal to kids.

Blog Post

2019 was another big year in the fight for the public interest. Here's just a small taste of some of our work and accomplishments. Thanks for standing by us in 2019, and we look forward to another incredible year!

Blog Post

The Maryland Public Interest Research Group (Maryland PIRG), a non-profit, non-partisan advocate for the public interest, monitors the voting records of Maryland’s state legislators. Do your legislators support the public interest? Our 2019 State Legislative Scorecard reviews their votes on key public interest issues, including those listed on our 2019 Legislative Agenda.

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.

 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Get the lead out

The kids are back at school. How do we make sure their water is safe to drink?

 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Ban Roundup

Rather than require warning labels for Roundup, the Trump administration is moving to prohibit them.

 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

This could be great, but what about e-cigarettes and vaping?

As federal officials consider bold action to warn the public about the health risks of cigarette smoking, we're highlighting that it’s also time for the FDA to take similarly bold action to address the youth vaping epidemic.

 
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.