Livestock producers are routinely giving antibiotics to animals to make them grow faster or help them survive crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions. Overusing these drugs—in humans or animals—breeds bacteria resistant to the antibiotics, threatening the future effectiveness of these medicines, and putting our health at risk. Every year, at least 2 million people get sick, and up to 162,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant infections.
Given the stakes, we shouldn’t allow even one large-scale farming operation to overuse antibiotics in this way. And yet approximately 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. are intended for use in livestock and poultry.
We have to stop the overuse of antibiotics, and protect our life-saving drugs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to regulate how antibiotics should be used. But so far the proposed rules out of Washington have been far too weak when it comes to the agricultural uses of our life-saving medicines. And given the current administration’s push to reduce regulations, we’re not optimistic that new rules will be coming anytime soon. Given the stakes, we can’t afford to wait.
Luckily, we don’t have to. Recently, we helped California and Maryland to pass laws banning the routine use of medically important antibiotics on farms that operate in those states. And we helped win market-pressure campaigns to get McDonald’s, Subway and KFC to phase medically important antibiotics out of their meat supply chains, starting with chicken.
These were huge victories to protect public health, but now, other major chains need to take action.