Decades of research has clearly shown that the overuse of antibiotics in food-animals directly contributes to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A recent study demonstrated how antibiotic-resistant bacteria jumped from food-animals to human. The lead author stated, “It’s like watching the birth of a superbug.”
That’s why I sent a letter to over 60 food companies, including McDonalds, Cargill, Kroger and Walmart, asking them about the antibiotics they use to produce the meat and poultry they serve to customers like you.
Today I’m asking you to co-sign my letter and join me in asking them: What’s in the beef?
In the past year alone, there have been more outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella associated with meat and poultry than any previous year.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, 80% of all antibiotics are used in food-animals, not humans. These drugs are frequently fed to healthy animals, to compensate for overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. While the meat you eat may be safe, the routine use of antibiotic drugs on these animals leads to the creation of superbugs, which cannot be treated with common antibiotics.
Luckily, there is a better way. Many farmers and food companies are now raising animals in healthy, stress-free environments. As a result, these animals can be raised antibiotic-free. This is good news for our food supply- and our public health.
As more and more Americans learn about antibiotic-free meat, more and more producers will raise their animals in a sustainable way.
To get there, we must first know what's in the food we eat. Please join me in and co-sign my letter asking America’s largest food companies – what’s in the beef?
For a full list of letter recipients, please click here.
Ask Food Companies: What’s in the beef?
I am writing to you because your company is one of the leading food providers in the United States serving beef, pork, and poultry. As you may know, the majority of American consumers are concerned about food safety, and most of them worry about meat contamination. In the past year alone, we have had more outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella associated with contaminated meat and poultry than any other year, leaving behind a trail of victims that cannot be treated with common antibiotics.
Every year, two million Americans acquire bacterial infections during their hospital stay, and 100,000 die from them – the vast majority due to antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Drug resistance prolongs the length, cost, and severity of the illness. Antibiotic-resistant infections are estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system in excess of $20 billion every year. This is a major public health crisis, and yet antibiotics important for human health are used regularly and with little oversight in animal agriculture.
In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration released data revealing that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States were sold for use in food animals not humans – most of these antibiotics were fed to healthy animals. , Decades of research has shown that the practice of routinely feeding antibiotics to swine, cows, and chickens harms human health by contributing to diseases that fail drug treatment. A National Academy of Sciences report stated that, “a decrease in the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in human medicine alone is not enough [to slow the increase in antibiotic resistance]. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate misuse in animals and agriculture as well.”
Federal agencies, public health organizations, scientists, and American consumers are united by their concern over the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture and its implications for human health.
As the only microbiologist in Congress, I have been working to address this public health problem for years. Today I seek your assistance in clarifying the extent to which the food industry sources its meat and poultry from companies that routinely use antibiotics to raise livestock and poultry, and whether public education efforts about this health issue could be enhanced. As a leader in the industry, you have the market power to address this looming problem. For this reason, I would like to know what choices your company makes regarding meat and poultry purchases, and I respectfully request that you provide this information by June 15th, 2012.
1. Please describe your current policies on purchasing meat and poultry produced with antibiotics, and how compliance with these policies is assured.
2. Please describe how or if you educate consumers about your meat and poultry purchasing policies regarding antibiotic use in production.
3. Please provide the percentages of beef, pork, and poultry that your company purchases that are produced without any antibiotics. Please provide a figure for each category of meat. “Without any antibiotics” means that antibiotics have not been used for any reason in the animal’s life, or, in the case of poultry, injection of the egg with antibiotics before hatching.
4. Please provide the percentages of beef, pork, and poultry that your company purchases that are produced in a manner that includes antibiotics only for disease treatment. Please provide a figure for each category of meat. “Disease treatment” means treatment of sick animals. It does not include antibiotics used for growth promotion, feed efficiency, disease prevention, or disease control.
5. Please provide the percentages of beef, pork, and poultry that your company purchases that are produced in a manner that includes antibiotics only for treatment and control of disease. Please provide a figure for each category of meat. “Treatment and control of disease” means treatment of sick animals and treatment of animals that have been exposed to documented disease. It does not include antibiotics used for growth promotion, feed efficiency, disease prevention, or, in the case of poultry, injection of the egg with antibiotics before hatching.
6. Please provide the percentages of beef, pork, and poultry that your company purchases that are produced in a manner that includes the routine use of antibiotics. Please provide a figure for each category of meat. “Routine use of antibiotics” means any use of an antibiotic in the absence of disease. This includes use for growth promotion, feed efficiency, and disease prevention.
7. Please inform us as to any planned changes in policy regarding the use of antibiotics to produce meat purchased by your company due to human health concerns or consumer demand.
You are also welcome to include any clarifying information that you think may be useful to American consumers.
Thank you very much for your careful review of these requests for information. I look forward to your response by June 15th, 2012.