Restaurants Step Up to Protect Antibiotics

We rely on antibiotics to treat simple infections, as well as ones that are potentially life-threatening.

Eliott Foust, Wefoust Photo
Change Corps and CoPIRG are working on a campaign to get Subway to go antibiotic-free in the meat they use in their sandwiches. They've been collecting petitions and are holding a big media/visibility event tomorrow morning in front of a Subway in downtown Denver. The event will go from 11:00 - 12:00, but it would be great if you could arrive a few minutes early to scout things out and get a few pre-event photos.

But medical experts are warning that if we don’t stop the overuse of antibiotics, they could stop working — with potentially grave consequences for public health.

Yet, many factory farms continue to give antibiotics to healthy livestock every day. In fact, 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are for livestock and poultry.

As a result of this reckless gamble with our health, antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” are increasingly threatening our families with illnesses that are difficult to cure. Already, 23,000 Americans die as a result of these infections every year.

To move the marketplace to change its ways, U.S. PIRG and U.S. PIRG Education Fund worked with Impact organizers, students with PIRG Campus Action, and members and volunteers to convince major restaurants to pressure factory farms to change their practices.

Our first target: The world’s most iconic fast-food chain.

In January 2015, we began calling on McDonald’s to stop serving meat raised on antibiotics. In March, just two days after we delivered more than 30,000 petitions to McDonald’s headquarters, the chain announced it would stop serving chicken raised on medically important antibiotics. Just weeks later, Tyson Foods, a major supplier of chicken to McDonald’s, made its own commitment to phase out routine antibiotics in their flocks.

Next, we set our sights on Subway, the chain with the most restaurants in the United States. With nearly 27,000 locations nationwide, a commitment from Subway to serve meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics would have a major impact on the marketplace.

We spread the word to consumers across the country and organized more than 500 health professionals to sign a letter urging the restaurant to help protect public health. Thousands of people took to Twitter and Facebook to post comments about the campaign; 100,000 people signed petitions calling on Subway to take action; our coalition showed the chain the vast public support for the move. And in October, Subway announced a plan to phase out all meat raised on antibiotics.

Now we’re calling on more major restaurants, like KFC and others, to stop serving meat raised on antibiotics. As more chains do this, it will put additional pressure on factory farms to stop overusing our life-saving medicines.

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