Washington, D.C. — The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has released a new report examining the ways that consumer and public health advocates are working to reduce the amount of antibiotics given to farm animals, a key contributor to antibiotic resistance. In the United States, livestock consume an estimated 70% of medically important antibiotics, and antibiotic-resistant infections kill an estimated 23,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CFA’s report, entitled Going Local: Initiatives to Reduce Antibiotics in the Food Supply, presents an overview of the current regulatory landscape, from federal agency rules to the policies of private companies like grocers and fast food restaurants. It explains why the current approach of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, based largely on voluntary measures, does not adequately address the growing antibiotic resistance crisis, and it catalogues the ways that action at other levels may help to compensate for the lack of an effective federal response.
Some of the most promising developments are in state legislatures. The report describes new laws in California and Maryland that will soon go into effect, as well as legislative proposals in several other states, which target “preventive” use of antibiotics. Large livestock operations often feed animals antibiotics on a routine basis to compensate for crowded, unsanitary conditions. While these practices are currently allowed under federal law, state laws like California’s and proposed bills in many other states would curtail abuses. They also include important data collection provisions that will help public health officials better understand agriculture’s contribution antibiotic resistance, and the most cost-effective ways to tackle the problem.
Already, the poultry industry has accomplished a dramatic transition away from antibiotic use, in large part due to pressure from institutional food purchasers like municipalities, school districts, and hospitals. The report explores how these institutions are teaming up with public health advocates to leverage their purchasing power, and includes resources for advocates to pursue similar actions, whatever the venue. “Antibiotic resistance is a daunting problem,” said Thomas Gremillion, Director of Food Policy at the Consumer Federation of America, “but this report offers hope for preserving a future in which antibiotics continue to work.”
Contact: Thomas Gremillion, 202-939-1010
The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.