Food & Agriculture

Going Local: Initiatives to Reduce Antibiotics in the Food Supply

Since their discovery in the 1930s, antibiotics have become a ubiquitous and critical component of modern medicine. With increased use, however, antibiotics are losing their effectiveness. At the same time, development of new antibiotics has largely stalled, with no new class of antibiotics discovered since 1987. The implications are dire. Antibiotic-resistant infections now kill 23,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public health authorities warn that we may soon find ourselves in a post-antibiotics era, in which minor injuries and medical procedures turn into life threatening events.

In order to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics, experts agree that we should use less of them. Scientists have long recognized the resistance threat posed by rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. Fortunately, communities around the country are mounting efforts to combat antibiotic use in food production. From local school boards to state legislatures, public health and consumer advocates are promoting policies to reduce the amount of antibiotics entering the food supply. This report gives a brief survey of these initiatives, with the aim of giving advocates a roadmap to advance similar legislation and initiatives across the United States.

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