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 people 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 on a routine basis. 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, approximately 70% of all medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in livestock and poultry

Antibiotics are meant to be given in precise doses to treat specific types of infections. When they are used on a routine, or regular basis by farming operations, it increases the likelihood that bacteria resistant to the antibiotics will grow and spread, 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 estimated that unless action is taken, these infections could 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 CALPIRG 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

CALPIRG is organizing the public to push for change. We’ve collected more than 200,000 petitions from citizens and families, built a coalition of more than 30,000 doctors and members of the medical community, and enlisted the support of farmers who raise their livestock without misusing 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 commitment to stop serving any meat raised on antibiotics.

Most recently, we helped move KFC, the fried chicken giant, to commit to a policy that by the end of 2018 all chicken purchased by the company in the United States will be raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. As a major chicken buyer, and a company whose supply chain is far reaching, KFC’s new commitment could push the U.S. chicken industry drastically away from the routine use of medically important antibiotics.  

These were huge victories to protect public health, but now, other major chains need to take action. 

Unsurprisingly, the industry is fighting back, trying to confuse consumers with misleading arguments about whether these commitments mean sick animals won't get treatment or whether there are antibiotics in the meat. But we know that's not true, and not the problem here. The problem is that farms are giving antibiotics to animals on a routine basis as a preventative measure — not just to treat sick animals. That routine use can turn farms into breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria. And 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, KFC 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

Blog Post

And that's a Wrap! | Emily Rusch

On August 31st the California state legislature wrapped up its work for the year, sending hundreds of new bills to Governor Brown’s desk - including bills to reduce harmful global warming pollution protect consumers from surprise medical bills, protect homeowners at risk of foreclosure, restore campaign finance options to reduce the influence of big money in politics, and give voters more options for casting their ballot. 

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

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections 

Oakland - Consumer complaints about payday loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending, according to a report released today by the CALPIRG Education Fund. 

> Keep Reading
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

This is the seventh in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about predatory loans, categorized in the database as payday loans, installment loans, and auto title loans.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

East Bay Times: California must tackle super-pollutants in air

"Through decades of emissions restrictions, California has made huge strides in cleaning our air and protecting public health from the worst effects of air pollution. But there is still more work to do, and the Legislature has an opportunity right now to pass a bill that would dramatically cut the super pollutants in our air," writes CALPIRG's Public Health Advocate Jason Pfeifle in the East Bay Times. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

CALPIRG Students Travel to Sacramento in Support of Climate Action | Jason Pfeifle

Wednesday was a historic day at the Capitol as the Legislature passed SB 32, a landmark climate bill that will extend California's emissions reduction target to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. CALPIRG students from across the state made the trip to Sacramento to show their support for this historic climate legislation.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Media Hit | Public Health

ABC News: Super-Sized Changes to the Golden Arches' Chicken Menu

Coverage of the McDonalds' announcement that they will stop serving chicken raised with antibiotics that are important to human health. "[Factory farms] are giving antibiotics daily to animals, in food and water, to prevent illnesses and promote faster growth. This is unnecessary, inappropriate and makes all of us less safe," said Emily Rusch with CALPIRG. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

McDonald’s announces plan to cut overuse of antibiotics in chicken

McDonald’s announced a new policy today to curb the overuse of antibiotics in raising the chickens that ultimately become McNuggets or other McDonald’s products.   Within two years, farming operations supplying McDonald’s USA restaurants will not be allowed to administer medically important antibiotics to chickens, a practice that is commonplace, even when animals are healthy. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

FCC NET NEUTRALITY ORDER PROTECTS THE OPEN INTERNET

Today the FCC took not one but two critical actions to make sure that the Internet works for everybody. First, it issued a "Net Neutrality" order guaranteeing a free and open Internet. This Internet freedom order will prevent the phone and cable companies from granting fast lanes or other preferences to already powerful firms. The FCC also acted to override state laws that prevented local governments from building out broadband networks to compete with the phone and cable companies.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Why own a car when you can share one?

CALPIRG Education Fund's recent report, the Innovative Transportation Index, found that San Francisco is a national leader in innovative ways to get around town, second only to Austin, Texas.

> Keep Reading

FCC's net neutrality plan alarms critics, but it's nothing new

"For more than 20 years, wireless phone companies have not only survived but thrived under similar FCC rules for voice communication," said Emily Rusch, executive director of the California Public Interest Research Group. "The FCC's new proposal on broadband protects an open Internet for all consumers."

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB to announce mortgage servicing rules and other consumer news of the week | Ed Mierzwinski

(Update: phottos added.) Today, U.S. PIRG will be an invited guest as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposes new mortgage servicing rules to prevent, among other things, a recurrence of the robo-signing scandal. Among the other important news items of the week, in case you missed it, Ohio has made it harder for aggrieved consumers to obtain redress when ripped off.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Tax

Tax Credits For Oil Spills

From guest blogger Chris Jones: My brother, Gordon Jones, was one of the eleven hard-working men killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon deepwater oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. Unlike BP, I believe my brother was more than a number or tax credit.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Tax

FTC Supports Do Not Track, Meekly

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released today a new report calling on Internet companies to put in place a "Do Not Track" system that would give consumers more control over their personal data online by the end of the year . The FTC also called on Congress to pass privacy legislation that would allow consumers to see how their online data is collected, used and sold, and give consumers the ability to stop such practices. 
 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Tax

CFPB launches new consumer Q&A resource page | Jon Fox

The CFPB launches a new interactive online tool that helps consumers find answers to their basic financial questions.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Tax

Paying Taxes, Safe and Sound | Jon Fox

With less than a month left to “Tax Day”, that special time of year when taxes are due, CALPIRG releases a new Questions & Answer guide to paying taxes.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support Us

Your donation supports CALPIRG’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