Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, on Monday called for a major reduction in the use of antibiotics in food animal production "because their overuse promotes the spread of drug-resistant superbugs and makes antibiotics less effective for people."
Consumers Union is calling attention to the use antibiotics on farms during the Center For Disease Control and Prevention's "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week," November 12-18.
The CDC's antibiotics week focuses on communication between doctors and patients, parents and other healthcare providers to improve antibiotic use. The campaign focuses on proper dosing and use in people, but Consumers Union says antibiotics are overused in food animals.
"It's time to stop the daily feeding of antibiotics to healthy food animals which makes these life-saving medications less effective for people," says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union.
The group released a campaign in June urging grocery stores to sell meat only from animals raised without the use of antibiotics. The campaign, titled "Meat On Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It," included a video directed by Food Inc.'s Rober Kenner and included a letter to the USDA urging tighter standards on antibiotic food labeling.
According to the Consumers Union, 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on food animals, "mostly to make them grow faster or prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary conditions."
Consumers Union also says large-scale use is leading to "superbugs" that are immune to one or more of the drugs.
"Antibiotic-resistant superbugs from the farm are showing up on meat and poultry and causing serious illness and even death," the Consumers Union says. "The threat to public health from the overuse of antibiotics in food animals is real and growing," Halloran adds.
Part of the June grocery store campaign included a plea to Trader Joe's grocery store to sell only meat raised without using antibiotics.
"Trader Joe's can be a leader in the campaign to protect public health and preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by selling only meat raised without drugs," Halloran says.
Previous comments from the American Meat Institute and other farm groups maintain that industry standards follow FDA requirements and are antibiotics are used simply to prevent and treat disease.