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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:
“Foster Farms deserves praise for joining other American poultry market leaders Tyson, Pilgrim and Purdue in moving to stop the routine use of medically important antibiotics from its chicken operations. With extensive operations here in Oregon, the company’s move will help reduce the breeding of antibiotic resistant bacteria, preserve these lifesaving medicines for when they are most needed, and protect the public from the horrors of superbug infections.
OSPIRG urges Foster Farms to attach their pledge to a concrete timeline; Purdue has already achieved this goal in 95% of their flock and Tyson is committed to doing so by March 2017.
Today’s announcement is more reason for Oregon lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 920, which would 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 support SB 920; 150 of them went to Salem in March to lobby for the bill. Now, even one of Oregon's largest poultry operators 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 SB 920 would be burdensome and unworkable.
While these market developments are encouraging, Oregonians can’t simply wait for the market to act. All of these recent announcements relate almost entirely to America’s chicken market, and 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 antibiotic resistant infections.
Meanwhile, the federal government continues to only focus on one tiny area of antibiotics overuse – growth promotion – while leaving unaddressed the much bigger problem of routinely treating animals to keep them from getting sick.
With a month left in the legislative session, SB 920 remains alive in the Senate Rules committee, but is not scheduled for a vote. 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.”
OSPIRG is a statewide consumer group.
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