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July 11th, 2012

Super Bugs Lurking in Your Dinner?

By Michael Pineschi

There was a time when “super” meant something really, really good. But lately the adjective has been used to describe some of the most despicable menaces to society: super-sized fast food, Super PACs, and possibly the most dangerous of the lot: super bugs. These are not insects with capes that battle evil. Super bugs are antibiotic-resistant bacteria that have evolved because of the abuse and overuse of antibiotics in factory-farmed livestock. Every year, 2 million people contract an antibiotic-resistant infection and 90,000 of them die. And today, ABC News and the Food and Environment Reporting Network reports that there could be a direct link between the overuse of antibiotics in chicken and the increase bladder infections

Food & Water Watch has teamed up with Fix Food and Consumers Union in a new campaign entitled “Meat Without Drugs” to educate consumers about the serious problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and encourage grocery stores to only sell meat raised without antibiotics. 

One visit to the Factory Farm Map is all it takes to see that industrialized livestock production is rampant across our country and making us sick in several ways; the rise in super bugs being one of the most immediate and grave threats to public health. Animals are kept in appalling conditions, forced into confined and unsanitary pins and fed an unnatural diet laced with antibiotics to help them grow faster and endure these unhealthy conditions, rather than to treat illness. This subtherapeutic antibiotic use is so widespread that 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States today are used in the meat and poultry industry.  

Like many problems in our food system, corporate consolidation is a primary culprit behind the proliferation of the unsustainable factory farm model that has led to the misuse of antibiotics. Keeping animals on a constant supply of antibiotics is a way to make a bigger profit, faster and stave off the effects of the unnatural, unhealthy environment.   

Animals are not widgets and should not be treated as such. The subtherapeutic use of antibiotics is hazardous and continues despite the fact that a majority of Americans want meat raised without drugs.

To date, Whole Foods is the only national grocery chain that has committed to selling only antibiotic-free meat, but Trader Joe’s should be next. The national chain talks about its commitment to sustainable purchasing practices, and does already offer some meat raised without antibiotics. By making a full commitment to drug-free meat, Trader Joe’s will not only protect its consumers, but also send a clear signal to the meat and poultry industry to stop the use of unnecessary antibiotics in healthy animals. Ask Trader Joe’s to make this commitment to consumer safety today and squash super bugs once and for all.

Michael Pineschi is a Food & Water Watch summer communications intern in the San Francisco office.

5 Comments on Super Bugs Lurking in Your Dinner?

  1. Sandra Nealon says:

    Trader Joe’s GET WITH THE PROGRAM!!!

  2. PCC in the Pacific Northwest is another wonderful grocery store chain that sells only antibiotic-free meats.

  3. cyndi sopenoff says:

    I’d like to know what they think of dairy products; since it comes from farm animals

    • aghosh says:

      Hi Cyndi, super bugs can make their way into milk but pasteurization eliminates most of them. However, raw milk (unpasteurized) has been a source of antibiotic-resistant food-borne illness outbreaks.

  4. gloria schmed says:

    This article on the Superbugs really hit home to me. Earlier this year I was traveling across the States and somewhere between Arizona and Toronto Canada (which is home) I conracted a Bladder infection that hospitalized me on my return to Toronto. It took the doctors 3 days to diagnose that I had contracted a superbug on my trip. I was immediately stated on an IV with one of the three drugs that is used to treat this illness. Luckly for me after 10 days I was bug free. Normally, I only buy organic meats and green groceries but in many of the States I was unable to purchase these products. I am sure I picked the bug up when I was in Virginia and purchased chicken to cook. In all of the other States I would buy fresh sea food ( not farmed ).

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