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 Americans 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 every day. 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, up to 70% of antibiotics sold in the United States are for livestock and poultry

Antibiotics are meant to be given in precise doses to treat specific types of infections. When they are used on a daily basis by farming operations, it increases the likelihood that all kinds of bacteria, including the ones that make people sick, will develop resistance, 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 found that unless action is taken, these infections would 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 MASSPIRG 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

MASSPIRG is organizing the public to push for change. We’ve collected more than 100,000 petitions from citizens and families, built a coalition of more than 20,000 doctors and members of the medical community, and enlisted the support of farmers who raise their livestock without 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 commitments to stop serving any meat raised on antibiotics, starting with chicken by the end of 2016.

These were huge victories to protect public health, but now, other major chains need to take action. That's why we're focusing on KFC — the largest chain of fried chicken restaurants in the world.

KFC recently took a step in the right direction by updating their antibiotics policy, but it's not strong enough to fully protect our life-saving medicines. So we're calling on KFC to go further — and if they do, it could lead to a majority of the U.S. chicken industry raising their chickens without medically-important antibiotics.

Unsurprisingly, the industry is fighting back, trying to confuse consumers with misleading arguments about whether these commitments mean sick animals won't get treatment. But we know that's not true, and not the problem here. The problem is that farms are giving antibiotics to animals in their daily feed as a preventative measure — not just to treat sick animals. 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, 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 | MASSPIRG | Democracy

Election Modernization Coalition Launches Inaugural Early Voting Challenge

In an effort to set a gold standard, advocates from the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition today announced their recommendations for implementing the state’s new early voting law. Scheduled to go into effect in November 2016, the new law provides Massachusetts voters with the opportunity to vote up to eleven days prior to Election Day.

> Keep Reading
Report | MASSPIRG | Democracy

Early Voting Principles

 In May 2014, the Massachusetts legislature passed an historic reform of our state’s election laws. As part of the new law, it established early voting starting with the November 2016 election. Early voting is one important way to expand access to our democracy. It allows people whose work or family obligations preclude them from standing in line or even getting to the polls on Election Day, more opportunities to vote. The early voting period starts 11 business days preceding the election.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Solid Waste

Toxic chemical found in wells for 3 Charlton homes near landfill

MASSPIRG staff attorney warned that the Southbridge Landfill would leak. Now, a total of four homes within a half  a mile of the Southbridge Landfill have exceedances for 1,4-dioxane, a toxic chemical, in their well water. Casella Waste will be required to do further testing in a wider radius. The Board of Health of the Town of Charlton and citizens in the area are concerned about the high levels.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Consumers Should Get Security Freezes Before Next Data Breach

Credit monitoring and other services that are usually offered to data breach victims and other concerned consumers do nothing to prevent identity theft; they only detect certain types of fraud after it has occurred. A report and consumer fact sheet released today by the MASSPIRG Education Fund aim to increase the awareness and use of the security freeze, also known as a credit freeze. The report explains that the freeze is the only security measure that can prevent new account identity theft.

> Keep Reading
Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Why You Should Get Security Freezes BEFORE Your Information is Stolen

A never ending stream of news reports about data breaches – including T-Mobile, Target Corporation, the IRS, numerous Blue Cross Blue Shield and other health plans, the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) - is a constant reminder that you’re at risk of a data breach and therefore, identity theft.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Pass GMO labeling bill in state

Big Ag spending undermines consumer-right-to-know.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Budget, Tax

JPMorgan should get no tax deduction in settlement deal

Taxpayers should not pay for corporate wrong doing.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Consumer Protection

New Report Identifies Most Troublesome Private Lenders to Students

A new report analyzing complaints about lenders of private student loans.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Smart Phones: Making Buses Cool Again?

Article highlights our report, "A New Way to Go: The Apps, Maps, and New Technologies that are Giving More Americans Freedom to Drive Less."

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Testimony In opposition to HB 1023 | Deirdre Cummings

HB 1023, I believe, is an attempt to bring more insurance companies into the state, unfortunately at a cost that is too high – the elimination of critical consumer protections. Specifically it will: 1. cause higher premiums in general, 2. allow insurers to give much less weight to driving record than currently required and to use discriminatory rating factors,  and 3. cause premiums to increase even for the best drivers in many urban communities.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Testimony In Support of An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Prescription Fair Pricing Program | Deirdre Cummings

Current estimates put the Commonwealth’s spending at $1.2 billion per year on prescription drugs. The results of these growing prescription drug costs are more people without access to necessary drugs, higher premiums for those fortunate enough to have prescription drug coverage, and an increasing burden on the state and other programs to assist those who cannot pay for drugs themselves

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Testimony in support of maintaining the current Food Store Item Pricing Law | Deirdre Cummings

The food store item pricing law requires supermarkets to put price stickers on most items in supermarkets. It is a long-standing, efficacious, and overwhelmingly popular consumer protection. MASSPIRG does not oppose stores adopting newer pricing technology such as electronic shelf display systems and self service price scanners with certain controls. However, we do oppose legislation that would allow stores to substitute a pricing mechanism that offers less consumer benefit than what we have today. In considering any change to our current retail pricing system, it must first provide equal or better benefits to the consumer to be considered as a substitute. The six proposals before you today do not provide equal or improved consumer benefits.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Testimony in Support of Closing the Telecom Tax Loophole | Deirdre Cummings

This hearing comes just days before the deadline to file our taxes, and each year at about this time, Bay Staters have an opportunity to reflect about taxes and how our tax dollars get spent. Some may use the occasion to complain about their taxes or government, others may object that public structures like schools, roads, and health inspections need more public funds than they receive. Whatever your perspective, Tax Day and our tax bills are far more palatable when we feel confident in the tax system; that there is inherent fairness in the system; and no one group or individual gets unintended or unreasonable tax breaks.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

MASSPIRG Urges Senate To Oppose Anti-Consumer Bill | Deirdre Cummings

This bill would turn back the clock on consumer protection over a quarter of a century by once again requiring an out-of-pocket loss of money in order for a consumer to collect damages under the state Consumer Protection Act, Chapter 93A. It would also eliminate consumers’ rights to join together to fight unfair practices.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Priority Action

We're calling on big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Tell KFC to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.

Support Us

Your donation supports MASSPIRG'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