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

Blog Post

Comments before the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy | Abe Scarr

The Chicago City Council Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy held a subject matter hearing today on ComEd and its response to the recently revealed illegal bribery scheme. Illinois PIRG director Abe Scarr made comments to the Commision during the meeting's public comment period and submitted extended written comments.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Comments before the Illinois Commerce Commission | Abe Scarr

The Illinois Commerce Commission held a hearing today on internal reforms ComEd is making in response to the recently revealed illegal bribery scheme. Illinois PIRG director Abe Scarr made comments to the Commision during the meeting's public comment period. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG

John Lewis, 1940-2020

John Lewis was an American hero.

Most people knew him as a champion of civil rights, whether as a young man marching for freedom on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 or serving as the “conscience of the Congress” for the past 33 years. Yet John Lewis was also a dependable ally on public interest issues, a tenacious advocate of voting reform and open government, consumer protection and a healthy environment.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG

Statement: Policy makers must undo harms of corrupt ComEd schemes

Today’s filing confirms what we have long suspected and feared: that ComEd and its parent company Exelon’s remarkable public policy success since 2011 was made possible through a corrupt and illegal political influence operation.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

Shut down, start over, do it right. | Matt Wellington

Few people living today remember what it was like to live through a world war, but that’s what we’re in, and we’re going to have to sacrifice if we want to save ourselves and each other. Just as the greatest generation did, we need to step up to what history has delivered.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | COVID-19

STATEMENT: After public outcry, ventilator repair restrictions loosen

U.S. PIRG has been calling on manufacturers of ventilators to release all the service information needed for biomedical technicians to repair that equipment. Increasingly, those companies are posting the requested information online. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | COVID-19, Consumer Protection

Statement: SBA data breach puts business owners at risk of ID theft and other fraud

The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced Tuesday that the personal information of nearly 8,000 business owners applying for federal disaster loans had been exposed. The breach affects applicants to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), and may have included names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, email addresses, phone numbers, citizenship statuses and insurance information.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG and Environment America

EPA decision to undercut mercury pollution standards puts our health at risk

After months of protest, even from members of the industries the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) keeps in check, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an action that defangs the regulations.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | COVID-19

U.S. PIRG calls on Congress to fund the U.S. Postal Service

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on many sectors of our society, including the United States Postal Service (USPS). With a significant decline in mail volume due to the virus, the agency is in danger of insolvency. U.S. PIRG is calling on Congress to act immediately to keep the postal service open and serving the American public. Specifically, it must include the financial relief USPS needs as part of the fourth COVID-19 relief package.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | COVID-19

Former CFPB Director Rich Cordray offers insights on consumer protection, government response to COVID-19

During an online discussion hosted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Richard Cordray laid out urgent consumer protection priorities for Congress and the Trump administration, while offering advice to consumers struggling at this difficult time.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Chain Reaction III

The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 out of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups who authored the report found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Protecting Those Who Serve

An analysis of more than 44,000 complaints submitted by active duty servicemembers and military veterans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and contained in its Consumer Complaint Database finds that mistreatment of servicemembers by financial companies is widespread.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Governing in the Shadows

“Special districts” are a type of government agency that exist outside of traditional forms of general purpose local or state governments, and serve key governmental functions such as public transit or housing. However, special districts are poorly understood by the public and often do business without adhering to modern standards of government budget or spending transparency.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Student, Education, and Consumer Groups Defend CFPB To Congress

On February 13, nearly 60 local, state and national student advocacy, professional, consumer, educational, faith and other organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders expressing "strong support for the crucial work the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) does on behalf of student loan borrowers." The "borrower-focused" letter also urged Congress "to ensure the agency remains well-positioned to solve borrowers’ problems, which includes protecting the Bureau’s single-Director structure and its independent funding, and maintaining Director Richard Cordray until his term ends."

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2016

For over 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | COVID-19

Calling for Protections for Emergency Workers in the Next Stimulus | Sabrina Clevenger

Health organizations across Illinois sent a letter urging Senators Durbin and Duckworth to priortize including protections for emergency workers in the next stimulus packet, due to be finalized by the end of the month.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

U.S. House passes major credit reporting reform | Ed Mierzwinski

On Monday, the U.S. House approved H.R. 5332, the Protecting Your Credit Score Act of 2020 (Gottheimer-NJ). U.S. PIRG joined other leading advocates of credit reporting reform in a support letter to the House last week. The bill takes a number of steps to make it easier to fix credit reporting errors.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

CFPB complaint volume sets another record in May | Ed Mierzwinski

As of today, consumer complaints to the CFPB set a third straight monthly record in May, with 35,093 complaints reported. Complaints about credit reporting lead by far, followed by debt collection, credit card and mortgage complaints. Job and income losses during the pandemic are hitting families hard.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

Superspreading events pose outsized risk of COVID-19 transmission | Abe Scarr

Public health experts are starting to draw actionable lessons about the nature of how COVID-19 spreads. In addition to maintaining best practices –physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing – it’s best to avoid extended, crowded indoor gatherings.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

I’m reading the CFPB’s mail about the pandemic’s effect on family finances | Ed Mierzwinski

I’ve been reading the CFPB’s mail. It’s okay, you can too. It’s public. Not surprisingly, the latest CFPB consumer complaints paint a grim picture of the pandemic’s effect on family finances. I ask: Why isn’t the CFPB doing more to help struggling consumers?

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

Peoples Gas plan to replace pipes passes costs to consumers, leaves too many at risk

Peoples Gas customers in Chicago are already paying an average of $75 per year to replace natural gas pipes throughout the city. A new report finds they could be paying 10 times that by 2040.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

Why does agribusiness keep overusing antibiotics? Consider 'Pig Zero.'

"Don't wait for Pig Zero," declared the poster, featuring a pig peeking through a giant blue zero, that appeared at last year's swine industry trade show.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips

Claire's recalls more sparkly children's makeup after FDA finds asbestos

Like the teen star herself, Claire's JoJo Siwa Makeup Set is colorful, sparkly and shimmery—but it's now been found to contain asbestos.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips

Flying this summer? You'll want to know your rights.

Everybody knows somebody who has a "bad airline story" involving a long flight delay, sitting on the tarmac, being "bumped," losing baggage or some nightmare combination thereof.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Antibiotics, Food

It's time for Wendy's to get antibiotics off the menu

 

The fast food chain Wendy's has a role to play in preventing a future in which antibiotics no longer work to protect our health.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release

A resolute dedication to democratic ideals coupled with the wisdom to recognize how and when to see the task through to completion: Advocates for all causes would do well to emulate the qualities that made Justice Ginsburg a truly historic figure. We offer our condolences to her children and grandchildren. The country she worked to hard to improve will miss her.

Blog Post

On Friday, August 20, Governor Pritzker released a set of new energy principles for Illinois, “Eight Principles for a Clean & Renewable Illinois Economy.” Much of the attention surrounding the announcement has been on proposals to hold ComEd and Exelon more accountable, which is understandable, given the current scandal. But, the announcement also included support for a policy Illinois PIRG has been advocating for years: ending the 2013 law granting a bill surcharge that Peoples Gas and other gas utilities are using to spend billions of dollars outside of the normal regulatory process.

Blog Post

Unnecessary costs for course materials, such as paying for access codes, are making a bad situation worse. 

Blog Post

Being proactive and demanding can help keep you and your family safe

Blog Post

From mask mandates to capacity limits, the largest public transit systems and ride share companies have new procedures

COVID-19

More than 1,000 health professionals call on leaders to 'shut down, start over, do it right'

More than 1,000 health professionals have signed an open letter urging President Trump and state governors to save lives by reinstating stay-at-home orders, ramping up testing capacity, and increasing production of personal protective equipment.

 

Public Health

Responding to the COVID crisis

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever, we need to work together to ensure that our government has a coordinated, strategic response to safeguard the public’s health, protect consumers from emerging dangers and ensure people can still participate fully in our democracy.

 

Consumer Protection

ComEd must be held accountable for bribery schemes

Revelations that the utility Commonwealth Edison, or ComEd, paid bribes in exchange for favorable policies has prompted Illinois PIRG Education Fund to call on the Illinois Commerce Commission to do a comprehensive audit of the company, and to demand transparency through the release of detailed data from ComEd itself.

 

Consumer Protection

Illinois PIRG sues Clearview AI over privacy violations of millions of Illinoisans

Illinois PIRG has joined the ACLU in a lawsuit accusing the facial recognition startup Clearview AI of violating the privacy rights of millions of Illinois residents. In January, the New York Times reported that Clearview AI had collected more than 3 billion photos from the internet without the knowledge or consent of those pictured.

 
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.