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Meat Without Drugs Campaign in Santa Cruz for Valentine’s Day

Special Valentine's Day outreach event aims to convince Trader Joe's to stop selling meat and poultry raised on antibiotics.

February 14, 2013

Consumers Union Brings Meat Without Drugs Campaign
to Santa Cruz Trader Joe’s on Valentine’s Day
Campaign Aims to Convince Trader Joe’s to Stop
Selling Meat & Poultry Raised on Antibiotics

SANTA CRUZ, CA – Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, brought it’s Meat Without Drugs campaign to Trader Joe’s in Santa Cruz today for a special Valentine’s Day outreach event. The campaign aims to convince Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat and poultry raised on a steady diet of antibiotics.

The Meat Without Drugs campaign is asking Trader Joe’s to help address a major public health crisis: the declining effectiveness of antibiotics caused by their overuse in meat and poultry production. The campaign is supported by more than a dozen consumer, health, environmental, and animal welfare organizations and over half a million consumers who have signed a petition calling on the national grocer to sell only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics.

“It’s time for some tough love Trader Joe’s,” said Michael McCauley, Media Director of Consumers Union’s west coast office. “Your customers love your quirky specialty foods and funky stores, but your meat on drugs breaks their hearts.”

Thursday’s event featured “Joe the Pig,” a costumed character wearing a Trader Joe’s-style Hawaiian shirt who carried a sign that squealed “Get Me Off Drugs!” Joe is helping to get the word out on Twitter@getjoeoffdrugs Shoppers have recently sent nearly 20,000 Valentine’s Day-themed emails to Trader Joe’s in support of the campaign.

Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on food animals, mostly to make them grow faster or to compensate for crowded and unsanitary conditions. As a result of large scale use of antibiotics in livestock production, most of the bugs that are vulnerable to the antibiotics are eventually killed off, leaving behind superbugs that are immune to one or more of the drugs. These superbugs spread on the farm and beyond, contributing to antibiotic resistance in hospitals and our communities.

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs from the farm are showing up on meat and poultry sold in grocery stores. AConsumer Reports investigation released in November found that 69 percent of the pork chops and ground pork tested positive for Yersinia enterocolitica, bacteria that is estimated to cause foodborne illness in about 100,000 Americans each year. Most of the bacteria found by Consumer Reports were resistant to at least one of the tested antibiotic drugs.

Similarly, Consumer Reports found in 2010 that two-thirds of the chicken samples it tested were contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter or both and that more than 60 percent of those organisms were antibiotic-resistant.

Consumers Union and a score of public health groups and other advocates have long urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to limit the use of antibiotics in food animal production. After decades of inaction by the FDA, Consumers Union is working to convince grocery stores — starting with Trader Joe’s — to only sell meat raised without antibiotics. Trader Joe’s has been unwilling to meet with Consumers Union to discuss the issue.

“Public health experts are warning that we may be facing a future where many of our antibiotics no longer work,” said McCauley. “It’s time to stop the routine use of antibiotics in healthy food animals. Trader Joe’s can be a leader and take an important stand for public health by selling only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics.”

While most grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s, carry some no-antibiotic meat and poultry, Whole Foods is the only store that sells these products exclusively, according to a Consumer Reports investigation. The campaign is targeting Trader Joe’s because it already offers some chicken and beef raised without antibiotics, although no pork. Eighty percent of its products are private label, which means it has direct control over its suppliers. 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.

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