[NOTE: The Cornucopia Institute is one of 109 organizations to sign this important letter.]
by Lydia Wheeler
Consumer, food and health groups are calling on the CEOs of the nation’s top 25 restaurant chains to only serve meat and poultry that’s free of antibiotics.
In a letter signed by 109 organizations — including Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, the National Center for Health Research, and Public Health Alliance — the groups said American consumers are deeply concerned about antibiotic use in animal agriculture.
The letter said “80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are currently sold for use by livestock producers who routinely administer these drugs in order to promote faster growth and prevent disease in living conditions that are often crowded and unsanitary. The overuse and misuse of these critical drugs enables some of the bacteria to become resistant, proliferate and spread.”
The groups said antibiotics should only be used for a genuine therapeutic need, such as a diagnosed illness or a documented outbreak of disease.
“They should never be administered routinely for purposes such as growth promotion or disease prevention,” they said.
The letter goes on to ask restaurant chains and their CEOs to publicly adopt antibiotic stewardship policies that prohibit the use of antibiotics or routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion, and to let their suppliers know they expect poultry and other meats to meet this standard.
The push follows a report from Friends of the Earth, ConsumersUnion, the Center for Food Safety, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Keep Antibiotics Working and the Food Animal Concerns Trust that found that most meat served in fast food chains comes from animals raised in industrial facilities that routinely use antibiotics.
The report, “Chain Reaction: How Top Restaurants Rate on Reducing Use of Antibiotics in Their Meat Supply,” found that only five of the 25 chains had adopted publicly available policies that meaningfully limit routine antibiotics use: Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s. The policies ranged from strict prohibitions on any antibiotics use, like Chick-fil-A’s, to policies that prohibit using antibiotics important to human medicine on chickens, like at McDonald’s.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) hailed the release of the report on Tuesday.
“More and more Americans are realizing that the misuse of antibiotics in corporate agriculture is having a direct impact on their own health,” she said in a statement. “Antibiotic-resistant infections are on the rise and the usefulness of one of our most precious medical resources is on the decline.”
Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, has been a leading advocate for ending the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture.
“The companies that have failed to change their practices should examine this report and immediately make the change that the American public is demanding,” she said. “Lives literally depend on it.”