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Meat Without Drugs campaign targets new Trader Joe’s stores

CONSUMERS UNIONS NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Contact:  Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org415-902-9537 (cell) or 415-431-6747, ext 126 (office)

 

New Trader Joe’s In Sarasota Is Target Of Meat Without Drugs Campaign

Consumers Union Urges Grocery Store To Sell

Only Meat & Poultry Raised Without Antibiotics

 

SARASOTA, CA – Trader Joe’s is coming to Sarasota when it opens its first store on September 7.  While the national grocer may be best known for its reputation for offering appealing products at reasonable prices, it’s also recently become the focus of Consumers Union’s Meat Without Drugs campaign, which aims to stem a major public health crisis:  the declining effectiveness of antibiotics.

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, along with such groups as the Humane Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are calling on Trader Joe’s to sell only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics.   Groups supporting the Meat Without Drugs campaign have gathered more than 400,000 signatures on a petition urging Trader Joe’s to make that commitment.

Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used on farm animals, mostly to make them grow faster or to prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary conditions.  The overuse of antibiotics on animals is creating dangerous new superbugs that are showing up in our food, communities, and hospitals.

“The antibiotics we depend on to treat infectious diseases are losing their power,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union.  “We need to drastically curtail the use of antibiotics on farm animals in order to preserve the effectiveness of these critical medications for people.”

Because antibiotics are so widely used on the farm, most of the bugs that are vulnerable to them are eventually killed off, and only a very small handful of superbugs immune to one or more antibiotics remain.  These superbugs flourish and spread on the farm and beyond, contributing to antibiotic resistance in our hospitals and communities.

Nearly 100,000 people die from infections they pick up in the hospital every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The vast majority are caused by bacteria that have built up resistance to the antibiotics used to treat them.

To make matters worse, these antibiotic-resistant superbugs are showing up in food and causing serious illness and even death.  In 2010, Consumer Reports found that two-thirds of the chicken samples it tested were contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter or both and that more than 60 percent of those organisms were antibiotic-resistant.

For years, Consumers Union has joined with a host of public health groups to urge Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed.  But the pharmaceutical industry and large-scale livestock producers, which profit handsomely from their use, have blocked all such proposals for decades.

Now Consumers Union and other advocates are calling on grocery stores to sell only meat raised without antibiotics – starting with Trader Joe’s.  While most grocery stores carry some no-antibiotic meat and poultry, Whole Foods is the only store that sells these products exclusively, according to a Consumer Reports investigation.  Trader Joe’s already offers much of its chicken and beef raised without antibiotics so it is well positioned to transition toward selling only meat without drugs.

“We need meat without drugs to help ensure that the antibiotics we depend on will work when we need them most,” said Halloran.  “Trader Joe’s has shown its commitment to its customers by taking a stand against genetically modified organisms, artificial colors and trans fats in the products it sells.  We are calling on Trader Joe’s to help move the livestock industry away from the overuse of antibiotics by selling only meat without drugs.”

Eighty-six percent of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics to be sold in their local supermarket, according to a national poll conducted by Consumer Reports.  Seventy-two percent indicated that they were extremely or very concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed, including the potential to create “superbugs” that are immune or resistant to antibiotics.

Meat and poultry raised without antibiotics doesn’t have to be expensive.  While prices for “no antibiotics administered” meat and poultry vary depending on the store, type of meat, and cut, Consumer Reports found that some prices were actually lower than the national average for meat raised with antibiotics.

The Meat Without Drugs campaign is led by Consumers Union and FixFood and supported by the Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest,  Environmental Working Group, Farm Forward, Food & Water Watch, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Humane Society of the United States, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Less Cancer, MomsRising, Natural Resources Defense Council, and STOP Foodborne Illness.

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Note:  Consumers Union sent similar releases in Plano (TX),  Foxborough (MA), and Portsmouth (NH) where new Trader Joe’s stores are also opening on September 7