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Consumers Union ad urges Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat on drugs

Monday, February 24, 2014

Consumers Union Ad Urges Trader Joe’s
To Help Curb A Major Public Health Crisis
Campaign Calls On Grocer To Stop Selling Meat Raised On Antibiotics

BOISE, ID – In a full page ad appearing in the Idaho Statesman, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, called on Trader Joe’s today to stop selling meat from animals raised on antibiotics.  The ad highlights how the overuse of antibiotics on healthy livestock by the meat industry threatens public health by making these medications less effective for treating disease.

Trader Joe’s is opening its first store in Boise on Friday, February 28.  Over 650,000 consumers across the country have signed petitions, postcards, and flyers calling on Trader Joe’s to be an industry leader on this critical public health issue.

“The antibiotics we depend on to treat infectious diseases are losing their power,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union.  “We need to stop wasting these critical medications on healthy livestock.  Trader Joe’s can take an important stand for public health by no longer selling meat from animals that have been routinely fed antibiotics.”

Consumers Union is opposed to the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock and has supported legislation to prohibit antibiotic use except when animals are sick.  The consumer group has urged Congress and the FDA to take action to curtail the overuse of antibiotics in meat production, but meaningful efforts have been stymied by the pharmaceutical and livestock industries for decades.

The effort to get Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat raised on antibiotics comes at a time when other food companies are taking this stand.  Earlier this month, Chick-fil-A announced that, within five years, it will no longer sell chicken that has been raised on antibiotics.  Other national chains like Whole Foods, Chipotle, and Panera Bread have already made this commitment.   Some local businesses like the Boise Co-Op, Vitamin Cottage, and Meats Royale butcher shop have too.

Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used not on humans but on animals.  These antibiotics are fed mostly to healthy animals like cows, pigs, and chickens to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in often crowded and unsanitary conditions on today’s industrial farms.  While public health campaigns have helped to curb the use of antibiotics in humans, antibiotic use in livestock is still increasing.

When antibiotics are used on the farm, the bugs that are vulnerable to them tend to be killed off, leaving behind “superbugs” resistant to antibiotics.  Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread from the farm to our communities via meat and poultry, farmworkers, and through the air, soil, and water.  As antibiotic resistance increases, the medications used to treat infections in people become less effective.

Weiser, Idaho resident Amanda Buchanan has posted a petition on Change.org that calls on Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat from animals raised on antibiotics.  “As a mom, I know how important it is to use antibiotics wisely,” said Buchanan.  “These drugs should never be used to prevent infections and certainly not to make animals grow faster.  We need companies like Trader Joe’s to take a stand and say no to meat from animals raised on antibiotics.”

Consumers Union is targeting Trader Joe’s because eighty percent of its products are private label, which means it has more control over its suppliers and can use that leverage to increase supply and keep prices competitive.  A Consumer Reports investigation found that Trader Joe’s already sells some beef and much of its chicken raised without antibiotics (although no pork), and a recent survey of stores nationwide indicates that the grocer has slowly started carrying store-brand ground turkey raised without antibiotics.

A 2013 poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 69 percent of shoppers who bought meat at Trader Joe’s thought that the grocer should stop selling meat and poultry from animals routinely fed antibiotics.  In recent years, the grocer has made a commitment to other sustainable purchasing practices, such as only carrying eggs from cage-free hens and sourcing its private label products with non-genetically modified ingredients.

“Trader Joe’s is in an excellent position to be a real industry leader on this issue,” said Halloran.  “It could make a big difference by sourcing its meat from suppliers who don’t rely on antibiotics to keep animals healthy.”

Contact:  Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537 (cell) or 415-431-6747, ext 126 (office)