More than 2 million people every year get ill in the United States because of infections that are resistant to antibiotics.
And while there’s a real emphasis on doctors holding back on prescribing the drugs where possible, you may be taking them in without realising.
An annual study has blasted America’s fast food chains for the amount of antibiotics in their foods, being fed to animals before they’re slaughtered.
CGTN’s Phil Lavelle reports from Los Angeles.
There’s not a real emphasis on doctors holding back on prescribing the drugs where possible, but if you eat fast food, you may be taking them in without realizing. An annual study has blasted America’s fast food chains for the amount of antibiotics in their foods, being fed to animals before they’re slaughtered.
It’s co-authored by a number of bodies including Friends of the East, the Centre for Food Safety and the National Resources Defense Council. The report grades different chains on their efforts to reduce antibiotic-infused meat across the supply chain.
At the top, Chipotle and Panera Bread score an A for their attempts, followed by sandwich chain, Subway, which gets a B+. Other big names like KFC and Taco Bell get a B-, with McDonalds slightly behind on C+.
But the bottom grade, an F, sees a large number of well-known brands given the lowest marks, with the feeling that they’re made no discernible effort to reduce antibiotics in the meat they use. Among the names, the likes of Olive Garden, Applebees, Domino’s Pizza and iHop.
On top of that, there’s a disparity in which meats appear to be getting most attention, with poultry faring better, says Cameron Harsh from the Center for Food Safety: “While there’s been great progress with chicken here in the United States, there’s much needed effort on beef and pork to reduce levels of antibiotics in those species.”
Many may question why this is such a big deal – after all, we’re talking about drugs that are designed to help us ward off infections here, rather than obviously harmful things like lead or asbestos. Jeff Nelken is a food safety consultant, and explains to CGTN: “Over time, antibiotics will build up a resistance and when you finally need the antibiotics, your body will not respond so overusing and overdosing of AB in the food that we eat, certainly will compromise our ability to fight them in the future.”
The reason foods contain antibiotics can be plentiful. Farmers may use them to treat infections in their herds for legitimate reasons. But many use them either as a preventative measure to avoid illness, or a way of getting their animals to grow bigger in a shorter space of time, to increase productivity.
They don’t do that at Belcampo Meat Co, though. It’s a small group of businesses, spread the length of California, and priding itself on the fact that all of its meat is antibiotic free. The only way to guarantee that 100 percent is to control the supply chain from farm to restaurant, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
They’ve also just launched an online store so that they can ship that meat across the United States, so high is the demand, as Ellen Christen, Director of Retail explains: “People care so much more about what they’re eating. People ask on a regular basis what practices we use, what the animals are eating.. people care about these things.. even if it’s not just antibiotics, but i think more and more people are aware that it is something we should be looking into and asking about when purchasing meat.”
Ultimately, there’s no way as a consumer to ensure that what you’re eating is 100% antibiotic free, unless you raise the animal yourself, or go to a restaurant like Belcampo which markets itself explicitly as just that. In the short-term, the advice is, if you’re eating fast food, hold the beef and the pork and just go for the chicken. And hope for the best.
Matthew Wellington on why consumers should care about overuse of antibiotics in their meat
CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke to Matthew Wellington of the Public Interest Research Group, about the use of antibiotics in meat and why consumers should be concerned.