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Open Letter from Consumers Union to Trader Joe’s CEO, Dan Bane

October 29, 2013

Dan Bane, CEO
Trader Joe’s
800 Shamrock Ave.
Monrovia, CA 91016

Dear Mr. Bane,

For over a year now, Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, has been urging you to consider the real harm to public health that Trader Joe’s is contributing to by selling meat from animals routinely fed antibiotics. We’ve asked you, and hundreds of thousands of consumers have asked you, to stop selling these meat and poultry products. We’ve been disappointed that Trader Joe’s has not stepped up to be an industry leader in this regard, as Whole Foods has.

If you don’t believe us about how the overuse of antibiotics in healthy livestock promotes dangerous drug resistant superbugs and makes antibiotics less effective for humans, we urge you to read Newsweek, the New York Times, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, all of which have published articles in the last month about the looming public health crisis caused by this reckless practice. As we have pointed out before, the Centers for Disease Control and virtually all leading medical experts agree that the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production must end in order to keep antibiotics effective for treating disease.

Trader Joe’s claims to care most about giving its customers what they want. We urge you to stop contributing to a problem your customers clearly don’t want—a world in which more and more common human diseases can no longer be treated by antibiotics. Please read these articles, consider them carefully, and become the leader we believe Trader Joe’s can be in the race to keep antibiotics effective for the treatment of human disease.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Elisa Odabashian, Director
West Coast Office and State Campaigns
Consumers Union
Policy & Action from Consumer Reports


Enclosed articles include: 

1) Curbing Antibiotics On Farms Taking Too Long: Our View

USA Today— October 27, 2013

“The agriculture industry maintains that the connection is murky between antibiotic use in animals and drug resistance in people.  On the other side of the debate is a long list of scientists, public health officials and veterinarians whose view carry more sense and less self-interest.  In 2011 alone, 1.9 million pounds of penicillins and 12.3 million pounds of tetracyclines were sold for use in food animals.  It’s hard to believe that wouldn’t have an effect.”


2) As a Post-Antibiotic Era Looms, Deadly Pathogens Are On The Rise

Newsweek  — October 18, 2013

“What makes the use of antibiotics for growth in meat and poultry production particularly troublesome, experts say, is the low dosages. Using small amounts of antibiotics is more likely to create resistant bugs, the experts said, because the microbes are not wiped out. Instead, the bacteria are essentially trained to resist the drugs. “It creates a reservoir of drug-resistant genes,” said Dr. Henry Chambers, a professor of medicine at University of California San Francisco.”


3) Warnings As Antibiotic Strains Resist Antibiotics

San Francisco Chronicle–October 16, 2013

“A virulent outbreak of salmonella poisoning traced to three Foster Farms chicken plants in Central Valley has peculiar features that food safety experts said should alarm regulators and consumers alike—in particular, the number of people who are coming down with a form of the disease that is resistant to antibiotics.

The pathogens are resistant to the same antibiotics used to help livestock grow faster and to prevent disease among animals living in crowded conditions.  At least 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States annually are administered to healthy livestock at low, routine doses.  The idea is to keep the animals from getting sick.  Such minimal doses, however, fail to kill disease-causing bugs that grow in cattle, chicken and other food animals—instead, they encourage them to evolve into drug-resistant strains.”


4) It’s Time To Restrict Farm Antibiotic Use

San Francisco Chronicle — October 16, 2013

“It’s not a coincidence that the “isolates” in the antibiotic-resistant strains from these patients [infected by the recent Salmonella outbreak] were resistant to combinations of these antibiotics: chloramphenicol, gentamicin, kanamycin, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole and tetracycline. These are commonly prescribed antibiotics for humans. They are also either commonly used in poultry production or cross-react with drugs that are commonly used in poultry production.”


5) Take A Stand Against Agricultural Antibiotic Use

Philadelphia Inquirer — October 13, 2013

“More than two million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections each year, and at least 23,000 die, concluded a report last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These superbugs originate for several reasons. The over-prescription of antibiotics is one. Another significant cause is the rampant misuse of antibiotics on factory farms, as highlighted in the CDC report.  To keep drug-resistant bacteria from edging out the susceptible kind that surround and inhabit all of us, we need everyone to become antimicrobial stewards by demanding that our health professionals and farming industry use antibiotics only in appropriate circumstances.”


6) Stop Pumping Farm Animals Full of Antibiotics

San Jose Mercury News — September 20, 2013

“California has set the pace for the nation on clean-air regulation and other health advances that eventually went national. If the FDA and Congress continue to ignore this very serious threat to public health, California should set rules for meat raised or sold in the state. It is a huge market — and even if factory farmers across the country try to ignore it, consumers are likely to take notice. Especially as the number of deaths from antibiotic-resistant infection continues to grow.”


7) Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Lead to 23,000 Deaths a Year, C.D.C. Finds

New York Times — September 16, 2013

“The government has estimated that more than 70 percent of antibiotics in the United States are given to animals. Companies use them to prevent sickness when animals are packed together in ways that breed infection. They also use them to make animals grow faster, though federal authorities are trying to stop that.

The [CDC] report said that “much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.””