Last month, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter released findings from a survey she conducted with the food industry regarding the routine use of antibiotics in livestock. While all farmers and ranchers use antibiotics for sick animals, for many it has become common practice to feed regular doses of antibiotics to animals to quickly increase growth or to make up for unsanitary conditions. Slaughter, who is the author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, reported that her findings from the survey should influence American consumers to pay attention to the meat they purchase. The survey showed many fast food chains including White Castle, Blimpie, and Dominos and product manufacturers such as Hormel, Kraft Foods, and Tyson reported using or producing meat products that were routinely treated with antibiotics.
There has been a lot of attention about indiscriminate antibiotic use in poultry and livestock production and the dangers it poses to human health. According to the Meat without Drugs campaign, 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in food animals. According to a report by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there was a record sale of 13.6 million kilograms (29.9 million pounds) of antibiotics sold for meat and poultry production in 2011. PEW has been an active voice against the use of antibiotics in animals and recently published a Bibliography on Antibiotic Resistance and Food Animal Production. In this report Dr. Frederick J. Angulo says, “There is scientific consensus that antibiotic use in food animals contributes to resistance in humans. And there’s increasing evidence that such resistance results in adverse human health consequences at the population level.”
This concern has sparked some consumer backlash and many are beginning to change the way they purchase and eat meat. In November of 2011, the Chicago public school district began serving only chicken that had been raised without the use of antibiotics. Consumers Union is calling for grocery retailer Trader Joes to eliminate meat treated with antibiotics from its shelves. As consumer demand for more information about where their meat is coming from increases, companies such as Whole Foods and Chipotle are advertising themselves as “antibiotic” free retailers.