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 CoPIRG 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

CoPIRG 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 | CoPIRG Foundation | Safe Energy

Energy Service Corps Completes First Year

Energy Service Corps’ mission is simple – help Coloradans save energy, save money and save the environment while training the next generation of civic leaders.  Our goal is to give every student, from kindergarten to college, within a 50 mile radius of our chapters, the tools and knowledge to reduce their energy use and help teach adults to do the same.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Budget, Food, Tax

Representative Jeff Flake Introduces REAPS Act

The introduction of the Reducing the Deficit through Eliminating Agriculture Direct Payment Subsidies Act, or REAPS Act (H.R. 2487) will cut $28 billion over ten years from agriculture subsidies.  This is a first important step away from misguided spending that benefits a narrow set of special interests rather than any rational farm policy or the broader public interest.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Health Care

Some Question Makeup of Colorado's New Health-insurance Exchange Board

A consumer group called for a member of the new state health insurance exchange board to resign Monday, and the author of legislation creating the exchange said she was unhappy with the board's makeup, casting shadows over a first meeting.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Health Care

Colorado Health Exchange Board is Unbalanced?

The new Colorado Health Benefit Exchange board’s goal is to increase competition and drive down the cost of insurance.  But even as it started work yesterday, consumer advocates say the insurance industry has too much say. CPR Health Reporter Eric Whitney has more.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Health Care

More Calls for Resignation of "Insider" From Industry Heavy Health Board

A second large consumer group representing 500,000 Coloradans joined the call Tuesday for the resignation of a “health industry insider” from Colorado’s new health exchange board.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

Blog Post

It’s common-sense: If something you own breaks, you should be able to fix it. But manufacturers don’t see it that way. Instead, they use a set of tactics to block independent repair because they want consumers to have to come to them to do repairs. Right to Repair made considerable progress in 2019, and just a little over a month into 2020, we’re seeing continued momentum. 

News Release | CoPIRG

CoPIRG is calling on the Senate Local Government Committee to approve a bill that would allow cities to tackle plastic pollution in their communities. The bill, SB20-010, sponsored by Senator Kerry Donovan, would repeal the law that bans local governments from protecting their communities from plastic waste.

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and the Denver Streets Partnership

After nearly a decade of operations, the Denver Streets Partnership (DSP) gathered on Thursday to say goodbye to Denver’s B-cycle program and release a vision for its replacement - micromobility options like pedal and electric-assisted bikes (e-bikes), electric scooters, and whatever other two-wheeled or one-wheeled modes develop, available in every neighborhood in Denver. The coalition highlighted how a robust micromobility network could help Denver meet critical goals around reducing climate and air pollution, transportation-related deaths, and the number of people traveling alone in vehicles. 

Blog Post

On Wednesday, the full U.S. House is expected to vote on a credit reporting reform package, HR 3621, the Comprehensive CREDIT Act. Meanwhile, a PIRG analysis finds that half of all complaints to the CFPB in 2019 concerned credit reporting and the most-complained about companies, in the entire database, were the so-called  Big 3 credit bureaus.

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. 

 

Solid Waste

New federal bill calls for U.S. to move beyond plastic

On Feb. 11, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal introduced legislation that would phase out unnecessary single-use plastics, which commonly end up clogging our landfills and polluting our environment. It also provides funding for recycling and composting infrastructure, and would shift the financial burden of managing waste and recyclables from town and city governments to the manufacturers.

 

Consumer Protection

More than 165,000 life-threatening infant sleepers recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced on Jan. 29 that four companies have issued recalls for more than 165,000 inclined infant sleepers, which fail to meet the safe sleep guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The CPSC's recall is an important step forward — we're continuing to urge manufacturers to stop producing these sleepers for good.

 

Consumer Protection

Food recall failure

Most grocery store chains are not warning their customers about dangerous food recalls. Find out if your store makes the grade.

 
View AllRSS Feed

support us

Your donation supports CoPIRG'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



CoPIRG 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.