The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has written a petition encouraging grocery chain Trader Joe’s to exclusively sell meat raised without antibiotics. The issue of meat raised with unnecessary antibiotics has gathered public attention recently, but the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not acted on the issue or taken steps to regulating the use of antibiotics in livestock. While past petitions filed by environmental and health advocates have targeted the FDA, the NRDC’s petition aims to reach a smaller audience in supermarket retailers.
“The Food and Drug Administration is under intense pressure from giant agribusiness and pharmaceutical industries, and is dragging its feet on protecting consumers. That’s why we’re asking the retailers who sell our food to take action, starting by asking Trader Joe’s to commit to selling only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics,” says the NRDC.
Antibiotics used to curb the spread of disease in unsanitary livestock housing or to facilitate faster growth in animals – not to treat diseases, as is their originally intended purpose – are unnecessary and can be passed on to humans through the consumption of food. Prolonged exposure and ingestion of these antibiotics can allow the immune system to build a resistance to them, creating new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are difficult for doctors to treat. Each year, two million Americans catch bacterial infections from hospitals and 99,000 people die from these infections – most of which are a result of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
These preventable deaths have created a strong public outcry in recent years as consumers and public health advocates realize that raising meat with antibiotics is presenting a serious threat to American consumers.
Trader Joe’s is known for its focus on organic and environmentally-friendly ingredients and products, and prides itself on the fact that its products do not contain any non-genetically modified foods, preservatives, artificial flavoring or coloring, trans fats, or MSG. The company buys its food directly from suppliers in the United States and around the world, ensuring quality and freshness. The progressive grocery chain has pledged to sell only sustainable seafood by the end of this year, and uses the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch – a highly regarded program that informs consumers and retailers of which kinds of seafood to avoid to discourage overfishing, which kinds are safe to buy without risk of damaging their population or environment, and which kinds can carry toxins such as mercury. Hopefully, this eco-conscious company will join Whole Foods (which has already banned meat with antibiotics from its shelves) in leading the grocery industry away from meat produced with unnecessary antibiotics.
The NRDC isn’t the only organization touting this petition – several other groups have endorsed it as well, including national magazine and product testing company Consumer Reports. The SF Gate reported that Consumer Reports said, “Supermarkets have an opportunity – indeed, an obligation – to be a part of the solution in the face of this growing public health crisis.”
Last month, Consumer Reports published a study that found that, while several grocers sell meat raised without antibiotics, many do not, and the labeling on these products is often misleading and confusing. After polling subjects, the report found that 57 percent of shoppers had access to antibiotic-free meat and 61 percent would be willing to shell out an extra five cents per pound for this type of meat.
Whether you’ve been following this issue or are just learning about it, stand up for your own health and sign the NRDC’s petition to Trader Joe’s. In the meantime, avoid this health risk by following Consumer Reports’ labeling guide to choose safe meat products.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/juniorvelo/345852737