FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms

Big changes for public health are coming from an unexpected place: fast food chains. Fast food has historically gotten a bad rap, but in recent months, some major restaurants have joined the fight to stop the overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms, a practice that contributes to a major public health crisis.

The widespread overuse of antibiotics is leading to the rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, often referred to as “superbugs.” These drug-resistant bacteria can cause infections in humans that are difficult to treat, and are sometimes fatal. At least 23,000 people die each year in the U.S. from such infections. If immediate action isn’t taken to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use — particularly in agriculture, where according to the Pew Charitable Trusts roughly 70 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are used — infections with drug-resistant bacteria could kill more people worldwide in 2050 than cancer does today, according to a study conducted for the United Kingdom.

Factory farms, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), often feed antibiotics to animals on a daily basis to promote weight gain and to keep animals healthy in the overcrowded environment of modern intensive agriculture. Using antibiotics to treat sick animals is good and responsible, but using our life-saving medicines as a crutch to fatten up livestock and to help animals thrive in a stressful environment puts public health at risk.

Wisconsin’s own Culver’s is already a leader in responsible antibiotics practices, having committed to stop serving chicken raised on feed that delivers sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics. But to save these critical medicines, Culver’s and other fast food chains will also have to stop purchasing beef and pork from factory farms that overuse antibiotics. As Wisconsin consumers, farmers and health care professionals, we’re calling for a Butterburger raised without routine, sub-therapeutic antibiotics.

There’s growing cause for concern: Last November, a new superbug was found on a Chinese pig farm and has since spread across the globe. Public health experts sounded the alarm because the gene discovered in this bacterium allows it to resist colistin, an antibiotic considered the last resort for treating dangerous infections. In May, the first U.S. case was reported in a Pennsylvania woman, and subsequently in two pigs. Another human case was just recently reported in New York.

As public health experts voice concerns about meat from animals raised on routine antibiotics, consumers are starting to pay more attention in the marketplace. A number of fast food chains, ever conscious of shifts in consumer opinion, have sensed this change.

In the past year McDonald’s, Subway and Taco Bell responded to consumer demands with significant commitments to transition away from serving meat from animals raised on routine antibiotics.

Because fast food chains are some of the largest meat purchasers in the country, their commitments have helped push the meat industry away from overusing our life-saving medicines. Shortly after McDonald’s committed to stop serving chicken raised on medically important antibiotics, Tyson Foods, one of their suppliers and a major chicken producer, followed suit.

More major restaurants like KFC, the fried chicken giant, should follow its competitors’ example and commit to serving chicken raised without the misuse of our life-saving medicines.

Luckily for us Wisconsinites, Culver’s has already been a leader on this important issue. The chain committed to stop serving chicken raised on antibiotics in 2011. It’s important that Culver’s takes the next step in protecting public health by committing to source all of their meat from farms that raise animals without routine antibiotics. If they do, it will set the bar for other major chains — and more importantly, it will help protect antibiotics for future generations.

It’s time for a Butterburger made from meat raised without a daily dose of antibiotics. Join us in calling on Culver’s to help preserve our life-saving medicines.

Claire Rater is the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group Foundation program coordinator; Carol Spiegel is professor emerita, University of Wisconsin Madison, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; and Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc WI.

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail