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Consumer Reports President Marta Tellado Speaks to UN about Global Problem of Antibiotic Resistance

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

NEW YORK, N.Y. —  Marta Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports—the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit consumer rights organization – today is speaking to delegates at the United Nations about the public-health crisis of antibiotic resistance, and what must be done to protect and inform consumers worldwide.

Delegates are considering steps to combat this global problem during a day-long, high-level meeting at UN headquarters.  In the U.S. alone, 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tellado will tell delegates how 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are not for treating sick people, but for preventing disease and speeding up the growth of food animals.  This trend, as well as the overprescription of antibiotics in human medicine, has helped fuel the rise in deadly superbugs.

“Antibiotic-resistant infection is the health crisis of our generation,“ Tellado says.  “This is the definition of a human-made problem.  We all must stand up and commit to reducing antibiotic overuse in people and animals alike.  You don’t have to be a scientist to know that the more you’re exposed to something, the more you build up a tolerance for it.”

Tellado adds, “If we don’t find a solution now, economists predict the deaths from these infections will outpace cancer deaths worldwide by 2050. This is unacceptable, and we cannot let it happen on our watch.”

Consumer Reports is pressing government and industry to take tougher measures to stop the misuse and overuse of antibiotics.  Over the past year, CR has published a series of investigative reports on antibiotic resistance, including the surge of superbugs in U.S. hospitals and the role that antibiotics play in the production of our meat supply.  CR recommends that antibiotics be limited to curing sick animals, and not be used for growth promotion or disease prevention in crowded poultry, cattle, and pork production facilities.

A 2015 CR survey found that 41% of U.S. adults were completely unaware of antibiotic resistance, and one in five patients who’d received an antibiotic in the last year had asked their doctor for it.  Tellado says this problem can be dramatically reduced by consumers if countries will step up their public-education efforts, so people can ask the right questions of their doctors and ensure they are not being given antibiotics unnecessarily.

Tellado also cites some encouraging signs in a new report released this week by a group of consumer, environmental, and health organizations, including Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports.  The report – Chain Reaction II – found that nine of the 25 largest fast food chains in the U.S. are adopting strong policies that prohibit the routine use of antibiotics, or medically-important antibiotics, in the meat and poultry they serve.

More information about Consumer Reports’ work in support of antibiotic stewardship and reducing antibiotic resistance is online here.

Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, or Kara Kelber, kara.kelber@consumer.org, 202-462-6262

About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit consumer organization, working to improve the lives of consumers by driving marketplace change. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has achieved substantial gains for consumers on food and product safety, financial reform, health reform, and many other issues. The organization has advanced important policies to prohibit predatory lending practices, combat dangerous toxins in food, and cut hospital-acquired infections. Consumer Reports tests and rates thousands of products and services in its 50-plus labs, state-of-the-art auto test center, and consumer research center. It also works to enact pro-consumer laws and regulations in Washington, D.C., in statehouses, and in the marketplace. An independent nonprofit, Consumer Reports accepts no advertising, payment, or other support from the companies that create the products it evaluates.