Industry-Wide Survey of Food Manufacturers Shows Antibiotic Overuse is Still the Norm

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A new survey released by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) proves that food manufacturers and producers are far too slow to act on reducing antibiotics in the food supply. Rep. Slaughter wrote to more than 60 large food manufacturers asking them to respond regarding their antibiotic practices including details of their policies, percentage of foods raised without antibiotics, routine use, and therapeutic uses.

According to the 74 page survey, reported on Food Safety News, "while a small number of industry leaders provide antibiotic-free meat and poultry products, an overwhelming majority of food production companies routinely feed low-doses of antibiotics to healthy food-animals."

Antibiotic-Free Still a Niche Market

A small line of producers manufacture exclusively antibiotic-free products including Whole Foods, Chipotle, Niman Ranch, and Applegate Farms, but the majority use far too much.

Again, Food Safety News:

Applebees said it works closely with suppliers "to ensure animal health products, such as antibiotics, are used in a judicious and appropriate manner." Arby's said it "does not possess the detailed information you have requested regarding the specific production practices of our suppliers."

Au Bon Pain said it was seeking to reduce its purchasing of products raised with routine antibiotics, noting that it offers customers poultry and beef products produced without the drugs, but the company also said that because it is a regional brand and relatively small it "does not possess the market power to alter the way suppliers do business."


Other respondents included Burger King, who uses meat from livestock that’s not fed antibiotics for growth promoting purposes, and Panera, who uses antibiotic-free chicken.

Slow Response

Rep. Slaughter commented that most did not even respond to specific questions about percentages.

Given what we know about the issues associated with antibiotics in our food supply and the enormous repercussions they have, this is downright disgusting. Over time, low doses of antibiotics allow for surviving bacteria to form a resistance and while we’re not sure about the connection between resistance in animals and in humans, we do know that 80 percent of antibiotics are used in livestock. In the U.S. alone, 99,000 people die each year as a result of antibiotic resistant infections and as far as I’m concerned, this is only the beginning.

We need to see large scale food producers lead the way in reform because if they refuse to buy products produced with antibiotics then suppliers will have to stop using them. This is where real change starts.

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Tags: Antibiotics

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