More than 23,000 people die every year in the United States as a direct result of superbugs — antibiotic-resistant infections.
Many of these lethal bugs can be found festering on the meat in your fridge. But a deceptive advertising campaign is circulating this holiday season doesn’t want you to worry about it.
Sanderson Farms, the third largest poultry producer in the United States, is confusing the public with misdirected “facts” to defend its use of antibiotics. Its commercials feature friendly farmers Bob and Dale, who want you to believe that meat labels that state ‘raised without antibiotics’ are just a marketing gimmick. After all, “by federal law all chickens must be clear of antibiotics before they leave the farm.”
The Sanderson Farms commercials at the heart of the antibiotic controversy
But concerns about the prolific dosing of animals with antibiotics is unrelated to meat being “free of antibiotics before leaving the farm”. The true health risk of widespread dosing of animals on farms is much more sinister: antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can remain in their bodies and spread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that “antibiotic use in animals that produce food has a negative impact on public health”, and develops as a direct result of regularly feeding farmed animals antibiotics in the first place.
Dr. Robert Tauxe, CDC Director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases warns, “There have been a number of well-documented epidemics where animals given antibiotics were carrying disease-causing bacteria that were resistant to those antibiotics that made people very sick.”
The U.S. Government National Library of Medicine has also been warning us of the dangers. A public health report states, “Evidence that antibiotic use in food animals can result in antibiotic-resistant infections in humans has existed for several decades... Antibiotic-resistant bacteria of animal origin have been observed in the environment surrounding livestock farming operations, on meat products available for purchase in retail food stores, and as the cause of clinical infections and subclinical colonization in humans.”
The reason animals are fed antibiotics is to keep them alive in unsanitary conditions just long enough to slaughter them. It leads to unhealthy animals, filthy meat, and superbugs that claim thousands of human lives every year.
Instead of cleaning up its dirty operation, Sanderson Farms is confusing and blurring the issue in hopes that consumers won’t worry about the industry’s prolific antibiotic use. Guess what? That makes Sanderson’s warning about marketing gimmicks little more than a marketing gimmick itself. And they think you’re not clever enough to work it out.
Please consider your health this holiday season, and caution your loved ones about the real risks of antibiotic resistant bacteria which can spread from meat.
Confusing consumers about antibiotic use for meat is completely unethical. The American people deserve to know the truth about legitimate health risks.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria is just one of many reasons why millions of people are choosing to hold the meat and transition to delicious alternatives that are better for our health, the environment, and for animals.
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Written with thanks to In Defense of Animals Farmed Animals Campaign Director Nadia Schilling and Fleur Dawes.