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 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 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

News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses Drive Healthier Communities

If Illinois transitioned its entire fleet of 3,216 transit buses to all-electric vehicles, it could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions each year and reduce toxic air pollution that creates a public health hazard. A new report from Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, “Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air,” shows that a full transition to electric buses in Illinois could avoid an average of 106,993 tons of climate-altering pollution each year -- the equivalent of taking 20,655 cars off the road.  

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air

Buses play a key role in in our nation’s transportation system, carrying millions of children daily to and from school and moving millions of Americans each day around our cities. Buses reduce the number of individual cars on our roads, make our communities more livable and sustainable, and provide transportation options for people of all ages and abilities. Yet, the majority of America’s buses remain dirty – burning fossil fuels like diesel that put the health of our children and communities at risk and contribute to global warming.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Over 80 Groups Oppose S.2155 & its Benefits for the Credit Bureaus | Mike Litt

Today, we sent a letter addressed to all members of the House of Represenatives in opposition to S. 2155, or as we call it, the Bank Lobbyist Act. We are joined by 84 other groups and leaders, representing communities, consumers, servicemember, and workers across the country. In particular, this letter explains how the bill benefits Equifax and the other national credit bureaus at the expense of average consumers and our military servciemembers. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Landmark victory: EU bans bee-killing pesticides

In a historic vote today, the European Union (EU) passed a continent-wide restriction on the use of bee-harming pesticides. U.S. states should pass similar bans to protect our bees and our food.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

The more things change... | Celeste Meiffren

.... the more they stay the same.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Mayor Emanuel is taking a page out of Mayor Daley's playbook by not providing public records (government cellphone bills and emails, specifically)  that the Tribune requested by claiming that "providing them is unduly burdensome."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Red Light and Speed Cameras: Public Safety or Private Gain? | Celeste Meiffren

No one likes getting traffic tickets. But a new research that we released today will make you dislike them even more.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Tax

Budget Season | Celeste Meiffren

'Tis the season to... fill gaping budget deficits.

Cook County is facing a budget deficit of $315 million, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle unveiled her plan to fill it yesterday.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Tax

The Super Committee should be super open | Celeste Meiffren

Our nation faces enormous fiscal challenges. As part of the deal that was recently struck to raise America’s debt ceiling, Congress established a new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to narrow the total budget gap by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. This “Super Committee” must report its findings by Thanksgiving, and if a majority of its 12 members support its conclusions, both houses of Congress will consider the resulting legislation under expedited procedures by December 23, 2011.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

How powerful are aldermen? | Celeste Meiffren

I am in the process of rereading "Boss," the hard-hitting biography of Richard J. Daley that chronicles his rise to power, written by renowned journalist Mike Royko. It's a captivating read, and I highly recommend it.

The part I read yesterday takes place after Daley got sworn into office (1955), and is figuring out how to gain as much power and influence as possible to secure his 20+ year rein. His first step was to convince the Republican legislators down in Springfield to help him increase the sales tax and a create a new utility tax. Then, once the money starts pouring in, it gets interesting.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

President Biden's recent Executive Order on promoting competition in the economy includes several specific recommendations on improving competition in the financial sector. It proposes that the CFPB give consumers more choices by giving them control of their financial data. It proposes that regulators strengthen oversight of bank mergers, which for years have been routinely rubber-stamped. While it doesn't specifically address the payment system oligopoly that raises the prices everyone pays, lowering swipe fees is also a logical outcome of the EO.

Cover photo of the Marriner Eccles Federal Reserve Building, Washington, DC by Rafael Saldaña via Flickr, Some Rights Reserved.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act (VCFCA) was reintroduced in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on Wednesday. This bill would limit interest rates on loans and go a long way toward protecting consumers, especially veterans, who are often victimized by predatory lenders.

Blog Post

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau celebrated its 10th birthday last Wednesday. It begins its second decade refocused on its mission of protecting you and me after a few years of, ironically, championing shady business practices over consumers. The agency’s first decade was full of success, setbacks, and promise.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

A bipartisan group of senators met Tuesday afternoon to prepare for a vote planned Wednesday on a $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that aims to boost federal investment in U.S. infrastructure, including billions for roads, clean water and power infrastructure, according to media reports. 

Green Scissors

Cutting wasteful handouts to special interests that prop up polluting industries related to these categories will reduce pollution and free up money that can be spent on modern infrastructure investments.

 

Consumer Protection

Illinois PIRG and others go to work for utility reform

Illinois PIRG has joined AARP Illinois and the Environmental Law & Policy Center to form the Take Our Power Back coalition, which aims to win restitution, regulation and reform in the wake of the Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) corruption scandal. Since 2012, automatic utility rate hikes have produced record profits for ComEd while raising Illinoisans' electricity delivery rates by 37 percent.

 

Consumer Protection

Illinois enacts landmark bill to prevent predatory lending

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed the Predatory Loan Prevention Act into law — endorsed by Illinois PIRG and more than 50 consumer, labor, community and civil rights organizations — which will institute a 36 percent interest rate cap on consumer loans. Too often, payday loans trap borrowers in cycles of debt through excessive and predatory interest rates.

 

Consumer Protection

Exelon split is a good first step toward checking utility power in Illinois

Energy company Exelon's plans to separate its regulated utility business from its customer-facing power supply business will help curb the conflicts of interest that helped its subsidiary ComEd accumulate unchecked political influence in Springfield. But our state must do more to fully reform utility political power and its costly consequences for consumers.

 
View AllRSS Feed

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



Illinois PIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.