Chick-fil-A last year promised "to convert 20 percent of its poultry supply to a 'no-antibiotics-ever' policy for 2015," Mascarelli writes. "Also, in 2014, Perdue Foods, one of the country’s leading chicken-processing companies, said it has removed all antibiotics from its hatcheries and announced that "it has introduced antibiotic-free chicken products for school lunch programs and has committed to a no-antibiotics-ever policy for additional school lunch items sold under various labels."
"In late May, Walmart, the nation’s largest grocery store chain, said it would ask its poultry, meat, seafood, dairy and egg suppliers to report annually on their use of antibiotics following the principles of the American Veterinary Medical Association," Mascarelli writes. "And in June, the White House convened its first forum on how to combat antibiotic resistance. The meeting included 150 food producers, agriculture groups and public health organizations and showed a new focus on the issue by the federal government."
Elizabeth Jungman, director of Pew’s public health projects, told Mascarelli, “This is unprecedented change in a relatively short amount of time. This changes how chickens will be produced for Americans and marks real progress for consumers’ health.”
The change has come about in the past year years after decades of poultry and meat producers "using antibiotics that are essential for people’s health to help promote the growth of their farm animals," Mascarelli writes. "Scientists explain that overuse of these medically important antibiotics enables germs to encounter them repeatedly in the environment and, over time, to become superbugs, by developing mutations that make them resistant to the drugs. People can be exposed to these bugs in soil and groundwater that is fouled with animal waste as well as through contaminated meat."
"A Pew analysis of data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows that 7.7 million pounds of antibiotics were sold to treat sick people in 2011, compared with 29.9 million pounds sold for food animal production—a number that rose to 32 million pounds in 2012," Mascarelli writes. "An FDA report found that between 2009 and 2013, domestic sales and distribution of medically important antibiotics approved for use in food animal production grew by 20 percent."
Antibiotics used in chicken hatcheries are "injected into eggs to prevent bacteria from getting in during vaccination and causing disease when the chicks hatch," Mascarelli writes. "Chicken, cattle and pigs are routinely fed small amounts of antibiotics to promote growth. Another type of routine antibiotic use in livestock involves feed additives called 'ionophores,' which are thought to increase feed efficiency by as much as 10 percent. Ionophores are not used in human medicine and have not been found to result in resistance to medically important antibiotics." (Read more)