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Subway to Eliminate Antibiotics from Meat

Statement from OSPIRG executive director Dave Rosenfeld

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:

“This is a hugely significant step by a major market player to protect public health. It puts Subway ahead of its competition, ahead of the Obama Administration, and squarely where the medical community recommends we go.

Today’s announcement is more reason for Oregon lawmakers act to take state action to curtail antibiotics overuse for most Oregon farm animals. Scale has little impact on a farm’s ability to use antibiotics responsibly. We already know small and medium-sized Oregon farms supported a bill, SB 920, that would have accomplished this aim; 150 of them went to Salem in March to lobby for the bill. In June, one of Oregon's largest poultry operators, Foster Farms says it can be done, along with one-third of the American chicken market. All of these developments undercut arguments by some large Oregon agribusinesses like NW Beef and Willamette Egg Farms that further action by Oregon would be burdensome and unworkable. 

While these market developments are encouraging, Oregonians can’t simply wait for the market to act. Despite its size, Subway is still just one market player among many. Most of these recent announcements relate almost entirely to America’s poultry market, and still a minority of it to boot. The latest federal sales data indicates that millions of pounds of medically important antibiotics are still being dumped into beef, swine and poultry operations as we speak, making us vulnerable to the creation and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

Meanwhile, the federal government continues to only focus on one tiny area of antibiotics overuse – growth promotion – while leaving unaddressed the much bigger and more dangerous problem of routinely treating animals to keep them from getting sick.

In 2015, Oregon lawmakers punted on taking further action, despite support from farmers, medical professionals and consumers across Oregon. Will Oregon lawmakers step up and fill in a much-needed gap in the fight to protect antibiotics? We hope so -- public health depends on it.”

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