2-Minute Activism: Just Say No to Antibiotics in Food

One of the exhibitors at BlogHer Food ’12 was the Pew Charitable Trust, and specifically, their campaign to end the use of antibiotics in food animal production.

I am one of those people who always checks the labels of the chicken and dairy products I buy (I don’t eat pork or red meat) to make sure it’s organic, free-range and raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones. Increasingly, I order vegan when I dine out unless the restaurant certifies it uses humanely raised animal products or its seafood is on the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Best Choices List. Yes, I am one of those people, but I think it’s important to be conscientious about what we put in our bodies. Our personal health and the health of our planet are at stake after all.

Here are some scary details from Pew’s Save Antibiotics Campaign:

  • Up to 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to food animals that are not sick. Antibiotics in food animal production are used to offset the effects of overcrowding and poor sanitation and to promote faster growth.
  • As many of the antibiotics used in food animal production are identical to the ones used to treat bacterial infections in humans, this leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is detrimental to human health.
  • Children, the elderly and the chronically ill are more prone to antibiotic-resistant infections. In 2002, 99,000 people in the U.S. died from hospital-acquired infectious disease. (I wish there was more up-to-date statistics, as I imagine the figures are even higher now.)
  • The US Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture have all cited a link between antibiotics used in healthy farm animals and antibiotic resistance in humans, yet still this practice is prevalent.

What You Can Do:

  • Urge the FDA to strengthen measures to end the overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms by signing the Pew Charitable Trust’s petition.
  • If you’re a mother, learn about the Moms for Antibiotic Awareness Campaign and find out how you can join together with other moms to protect your children’s health.
  • Only buy animal products that carry the label “raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones.” According to Pew staff I talked with at BlogHer, the label “no antibiotics” is virtually meaningless, as no antibiotics are added to animal products during the production process.
  • Ask your favorite restaurants if they use humanely-raised meats and dairy products, and if not, encourage them to do so.
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