Important News About Antibiotics In Meat

Consumers need to call on big restaurants to stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics. 

Consumers need to call on big restaurants to stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics.

I received an email blast today from U.S. PIRG, a national consumer group. They are sounding the alert about antibiotics in meat and other foods and asking for our help.

According to a new report form the FDA, antibiotics for use in meat increased by 20% [pdf] between 2009 and 2013. Why should we care? Agricultural overuse of antibiotics poses serious risks to public health, in terms of facilitating emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and ‘superbugs.’ Moreover, agricultural antibiotics in the food supply may also fatten up human beings, right along with the meat they eat.

This rise is cause for alarm. The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotics will stop working if we continue to overuse them. The United States is behind other nations in protecting the food supply from antibiotics. For example, “Growth promoters,” the microdoses of everyday antibiotics given to livestock to fatten them, have been banned in Europe since 2006.

U.S. PIRG notes that several Big food companies and chains — Panera, Perdue, Chipotle, McDonald’s — are listening to consumers by eliminating antibiotics in meat they serve. Just a few months ago, McDonald’s agreed to phase out the routine use of antibiotics in their chicken. And, just last week, Tyson, the nation’s biggest chicken producer and supplier of McNuggets, agreed to ditch antibiotics, a move that may create a tipping point.

U.S. PIRG has now set it sights on convincing Subway, which has more restaurants than McDonald’s, to swear off antibiotics.  They are betting that when Subway goes antibiotic-free, more big food companies will follow.

U.S. PIRG will be launching a big public education and action campaign this summer. You can learn more about U.S PIRG’s efforts to convince Subway to give up give up antibiotics in meat they serve. There is also a nifty form letter you can send to Subway CEO Fred DeLuca.



  1. Antibiotics in meat: A public health controversy that isn't going away - Fortune

    […] So why have sales of antibiotics in meat climbed? “A lot of these announcements came in either late 2013 or in 2014, so we don’t really expect to see that reflected in the data we’re looking at right now,” Gail Hansen, a senior officer for Pew Charitable Trusts’ antibiotic resistance project, told Reuters. “At some point, though, we should be seeing a decrease.” Meat industry analysts –including the North American Meat Industry– say they weren’t sure why sales climbed in the FDA’s data. It could be because food producing animal herds are growing in numbers or due to actual diseases. (The FDA report didn’t speculate on the reasons, and a spokesperson said it would not comment beyond the report.) However, experts point out there’s a difference between sales and actual usage of the antibiotics—though that may be splitting hairs and some media reports didn’t quite see the distinction. […]

  2. Anya

    I got that email too! Thanks for this blog, it’s such an important issue. I think, though, that the group is called U.S. PIRG, not PRIG.

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