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 Americans 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 every day. 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, up to 70% of antibiotics sold in the United States are for livestock and poultry

Antibiotics are meant to be given in precise doses to treat specific types of infections. When they are used on a daily basis by farming operations, it increases the likelihood that all kinds of bacteria, including the ones that make people sick, will develop resistance, 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 found that unless action is taken, these infections would 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 Illinois PIRG 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

Illinois PIRG is organizing the public to push for change. We’ve collected more than 100,000 petitions from citizens and families, built a coalition of more than 20,000 doctors and members of the medical community, and enlisted the support of farmers who raise their livestock without 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 commitments to stop serving any meat raised on antibiotics, starting with chicken by the end of 2016.

These were huge victories to protect public health, but now, other major chains need to take action. That's why we're focusing on KFC — the largest chain of fried chicken restaurants in the world.

KFC recently took a step in the right direction by updating their antibiotics policy, but it's not strong enough to fully protect our life-saving medicines. So we're calling on KFC to go further — and if they do, it could lead to a majority of the U.S. chicken industry raising their chickens without medically-important antibiotics.

Unsurprisingly, the industry is fighting back, trying to confuse consumers with misleading arguments about whether these commitments mean sick animals won't get treatment. But we know that's not true, and not the problem here. The problem is that farms are giving antibiotics to animals in their daily feed as a preventative measure — not just to treat sick animals. 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, 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

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
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Safe Energy

Exelon Answers its Own Question: More Ratepayer Money for Exelon

For more than a year, Exelon has campaigned to convince decision makers and the public that the critical energy policy question facing Illinois is what to do to prop up Exelon’s allegedly struggling nuclear power plants. Today, to the surprise of no one, Exelon answered their own question with legislation that asks Illinois ratepayers to pony up to pad Exelon’s profits.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Chicago Voters Want to Curb Influence of Big Money, Empower Small Donors

While some races- including the mayoral - are headed for runoffs, Chicago voters spoke loud and clear on one issue: it’s time to get big money out of our elections.

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

USPIRG Commends Department of Labor's Rule On Conflicted Retirement Advice

Today, we joined President Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren, CFPB Director Rich Cordray, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and others at AARP as the President announced his strong support for a proposed Labor Department rule to close loopholes and to require Wall Street and other financial advisors to put consumers first when they give retirement advice. Wall Street has already launched a misleading attack. Read more to see our statement supporting the proposal, which will put billions of dollars back into retirement accounts.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Competition laws also important to protect markets and consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

When companies use illegal practices to keep prices high or limit entry of innovative or lower-cost competitors, everyone loses. Learn more about our recent efforts under the antitrust and competition laws to make markets for prescription drugs and payments cards work fairly.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Report Examines Whether High-Speed Rail Should Be Public, Private or Both

A first-of-its-kind report released today examines whether high-speed rail should be public, private or both.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Health Care

Consumer Group Calls for New Competitive Health Care Marketplace

Illinois policy-makers can address rising health care costs by implementing an effective health insurance exchange, according to a report released today by consumer advocacy group Illinois PIRG.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Off-Shore Tax Havens Cost Illinois Taxpayers $490 a Year

Major corporations and some individuals avoid a total of as much as $100 billion a year in federal taxes by “off-shoring” the profits they make here in the U.S. or by setting up sham headquarters in tax haven countries. As a result, Illinois taxpayers are left footing the bill.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Health Care Repeal Would Have Costly Consequences for Illinois Consumers and Small Businesses

Consumers and small businesses in Illinois will face significantly higher insurance premiums and could see costly coverage denials and price discrimination if efforts to repeal the federal health care law prevail in Congress or in the courts, according to The Cost of Repeal: Examining the Impact on Illinois of Repealing the New Federal Health Care Law, a new report released today by Illinois PIRG.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Transportation

Myth Busted: Road Costs Not Covered by Gas Taxes

A new report released today by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (Illinois PIRG) disproves the common misperception that road-building is paid for by user fees, showing that gas taxes cover barely half the costs of building and maintaining roads, a fraction which is likely to fall steadily.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

Lessons from the parking meter deal | Celeste Meiffren

Chicago Reader writer Mick Dumke's story yesterday, "Rahm Emanuel's shifting views of the parking meter deal," provides a detailed time line of how Mayor Emanuel has changed his tune time and time again in regards to the parking meter deal. First, he admits that it was a bad deal, but claims that it's too late to do anything. Then, as the election gets into high gear, he says that the deal should be renegotiated. Then, most recently, during his interview on "Chicago Tonight" last week, he said that the parking meter deal "offends him," but there is nothing to be done about it.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Wait, what is TIF? | Celeste Meiffren

I was at a BBQ this weekend for Labor Day and a friend of mine told me that she had been reading 'Tax Dollars and Sense,' but was embarrassed because she had no idea what tax increment financing is. That's understandable.

So, in an effort to hold up the "sense" part of this blog, here is a quick breakdown of what a TIF is and how it works.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Shining a Light on TIFs in Chicago | Celeste Meiffren

We did a recent analysis of the City of Chicago’s website responsible for providing the public information on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and found that critical information is missing, leaving the public in the dark on how tax dollars are spent.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Is TIF Reform on the Horizon? | Celeste Meiffren

Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel's TIF Task Force released their recommendations for how to improve the transparency and accountability of TIFs in Chicago.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Transparency Discussion | Celeste Meiffren

The article "Opening government, the Chicago way," has a fascinating take on how Chicago can use innovation and technological know-how to make the City more transparent, and encourage more engagement from Chicagoans.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Priority Action

We're calling on big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Tell KFC to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.

Support Us

Your donation supports Illinois PIRG’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