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 OSPIRG 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

OSPIRG 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.  


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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 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

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. 

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Getting Personal with Chemicals

We should be able to trust that the products we buy are safe — especially the ones our families use every day, directly on our bodies. However, we looked into common ingredients in popular personal care products, and found that when we use these products, like shampoo, baby wipes, deodorant, shaving gel, or perfume, we are often dosing our bodies with chemicals that can disrupt our hormones, cause developmental problems, cause cancer, and more.

This consumer guide describes the results of our investigation of 10 popular personal care products that contain chemicals of concern.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

Grilling to protect public health | Anya Vanecek

With antibiotics, we can all enjoy the summer free from the worry that a stumble on the sidewalk or a minor burn from the grill could turn into a serious illness. So what could be a better centerpiece to the picnic table than meat raised without routine antibiotics?

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Blog Post | Public Health

What’s that toxic smell? One Father Clashes with the Chemical Industry | Anna Low-Beer

The movie Stink! originated with one pair of children’s pajamas that Director John Whelan bought his daughters for Christmas in 2011. The new pajamas, when taken out of their plastic packaging, smelled overwhelmingly of chemicals. That one smell prompted Whelan to look deeper into fragrance and the chemical industry’s use of secret and often toxic chemicals in our everyday products. He simply wanted to know – what’s in the stuff we buy? “It seemed like a common-sense question to ask…I’m just trying to find out what chemicals they would put on kids’ pajamas,” he said. A common-sense question, yes. One with a simple answer? Not so much. 

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News Release | OSPIRG | Public Health

TACO BELL MOVES AWAY FROM CHICKEN RAISED ON MEDICALLY IMPORTANT ANTIBIOTICS

Taco Bell will no longer serve chicken raised on medically important antibiotics in U.S. locations starting in 2017, but KFC still appears to lag.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | OSPIRG | Public Health

Subway to Eliminate Antibiotics from Meat

The country’s largest restaurant chain, Subway, announced this morning that they plan to eliminate  antibiotic use in all of its meat supplies, according to the Wall Street Journal and ABC News. According to news reports, the chain will shift its entire chicken supply by the end of 2016; transition its entire turkey supply within two to three years; and transition its pork and beef within six years after the turkey shift is completed or by 2025. What follows is a statement from OSPIRG executive director Dave Rosenfeld:

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG | Public Health

California acts to curtail antibiotic overuse on farm animals

"We commend California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown for taking strong action to protect their citizens from antibiotic overuse on farm animals. We hope this inspires Oregon lawmakers and Gov. Kate Brown to heed the call of the medical community and thousands of Oregon farmers and follow suit," said OSPIRG executive director Dave Rosenfeld.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG | Public Health

Foster Farms’ antibiotics announcement shows it can be done

Statement of OSPIRG executive director Dave Rosenfeld in response to Foster Farms’ announcement this morning pledging to eliminate medically important antibiotics from its chicken operations:

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG | Public Health

Tyson to phase out antibiotics from chicken; is Oregon next?

Statement of OSPIRG Executive Director Dave Rosenfeld on Tyson’s announcement regarding antibiotic use in its chicken operations

> Keep Reading

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Blog Post | Public Health

American Academy of Pediatrics paper: antibiotics overuse in agriculture | David Rosenfeld

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a new technical paper about the impacts of antibiotics overuse in agriculture on small children. It is worth a read.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Threemile Canyon Farms and antibiotics | David Rosenfeld

Gov. Kate Brown recently disclosed that she plans to appoint an officer of Oregon’s largest factory farm – Threemile Canyon Farms – to the state Board of Agriculture. Friends of Family Farmers and a number of other groups are pushing back. OSPIRG doesn't have enough expertise on this matter to have a position, but it is clear that the Board of Agriculture plays an important role in shaping Oregon’s farm policy. This prompted me to go back and review the company's statements against a bill to curtail antibiotics overuse on farm animals. After doing so, I worry about what this appointment signals in terms of the Governor's stance on this critical public health issue.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Confusing Statements by Opponents of Oregon Antibiotics Legislation | David Rosenfeld

I confess to be somewhat puzzled by the statements made by leaders of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association and Willamette Egg Farms in Saturday's Associated Press article regarding Oregon legislation to curtail antibiotic overuse on farm animals.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Stay focused, Oregon: why we should act to curtail antibiotics overuse on Oregon farm animals. | David Rosenfeld

Today was the first public hearing on House Bill 2598, which would stop the overuse of antibiotics on farm animals in Oregon. We expect a similar bill in the Senate, SB 920, to have a hearing in a few weeks. As expected, we are already seeing some of what opponents of will be saying.

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Blog Post | Food

Major Setback for Taxpayer Handouts to Big Ag | David Rosenfeld

The U.S. House of Representatives voted down the Farm Bill this morning, and I'm darn glad they did. 

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