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Most Meat Is Full of Antibiotics, Survey Finds

Bearnaise or amoxicillin?
Bearnaise or amoxicillin?
Flickr/Vox Efx

Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York has released the results from a survey of more than 60 fast food, retail, production and grocery companies asking them about their policies on the use of antibiotics in meat and poultry, Forbes reports. The purpose of the survey was to evaluate their level of transparency about antibiotic use and to reveal to consumers the extent to which antibiotics are used in their food.

The findings indicate that the majority of companies surveyed regularly feed antibiotics to their healthy animals to prevent illness and to promote faster animal growth. Restaurants that serve such meats include Applebee's, Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, Subway, Domino's, Panda Express, Popeye's and Jack In the Box. Markets that carry antibiotic-doused meats include Safeway, Costco, Target, Walmart -- even Trader Joe's and Dean & Deluca. Producers who feed even healthy animals antibiotics include Cargill, Hormel, Kraft Foods, Pilgrims Pride and Tyson. This overuse of antibiotics has been found to result in an increase in "superbugs" -- bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics.

And, of course, the companies that were worst about overuse of antibiotics also tended to be the least forthcoming about their practices.

Whole Foods, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Niman Ranch, Bell & Evans, Coleman Natural Foods, Ozark Mountain Pork, Applegate Farms and Sweetgreen are among the few companies that do not use antibiotics on healthy animals. All were also highly transparent about their food-production processes.

"Through my survey, the food industry has provided us valuable information, and with that knowledge we must act," Rep. Slaughter said in a press release. "I urge consumers to consider today's findings when shopping, and I urge the FDA and my colleagues in Congress to strengthen our laws in order to fight the growing threat of superbugs. Until we do, the routine use of antibiotics will continue to breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten human health."

For the complete survey data, click here.

Rep. Slaughter (kinda funny how her name is Slaughter, huh?) is also the author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which, according to the act's website, would "end the routine use of antibiotics on healthy animals and curb the growing threat of superbugs. PAMTA would preserve the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics by phasing out the use of these drugs in healthy food-producing animals, while allowing their use for treatment of sick animals."

One shocking statistic that came out of the research: 80% of antibiotics in the U.S. are used on animals, not to fight illness in humans. "Four out of five antibiotics sold in this country were for use on animals, many of whom are not even sick, and that is dangerous to all of us," Slaughter said.

As an example of how this issue directly affects people, a virulent strain of E. coli that is most likely the result of antibiotic overuse in chickens has recently been linked to antibiotic-resistant urinary tract infections in humans. ABC News called the research "compelling new evidence of a direct link between the pervasive, difficult-to-cure human disease and the antibiotic-fed chicken people buy at the grocery store."

On the plus side, this is a great excuse to eat more Chipotle burrito bowls.


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