The spread of antibiotic resistance is facilitated by the failure of three-quarters of the biggest grocery chains in the United States to restrict the use of antibiotics in their house-brand fresh meat.
This is supported by a brand-new report titled “Superbugs in Stock,” which was created by members of the Antibiotics Off the Menu alliance of consumer, animal protection, and public health organisations. Target performed the best among the top food shops in the country, yet even it only earned a C.
In this nation, supermarkets sell around half of the fresh meat that is sold.
According to Matthew Wellington, public health campaigns director at U.S. PIRG, a coalition member, “that means the supermarket business has a potentially large impact on how antibiotics are used in meat production.” “This analysis demonstrates the urgent need for further advancement in the grocery business.”
A Supermarket Report Card
The coalition has been focusing on restaurants for the last six years, publishing an annual report on the policies of the biggest fast-food and fast-casual establishments. Following these disclosures, a number of chains declared modifications to their policies; however, not all of them have been implemented.
The report’s principal author, Steven Roach of the Food Animal Concerns Trust, says, “We noticed there was movement with the restaurant chains so we wanted to look at the other location people obtain the majority of their food.” We decided it was a good idea to look at supermarket chains after the pandemic, when there had been a shift in people’s eating habits from eating out to eating at home.
Roach and his co-authors used a poll, corporate websites, and public materials to learn about the policy of the grocery chains regarding the use of antibiotics in private-label chicken, turkey, hog, and cattle. The grading criteria included items like having a relevant and open public policy that relates to animal welfare, enforcing that policy, and using third-party verification. These things were given points according to the scoring criteria.
Their results don’t exactly give me hope. With 10 points or fewer out of a potential 100, eight of the twelve largest food shops in the U.S. scored an F. Three of the top five earning grocery chains in the United States, Kroger, Walmart, and Albertsons, are included in this category. While many of the failed businesses do sell house-brand meat marked “grown without antibiotics,” none of them have robust rules that cover their whole line of fresh meat sold under their own private labels.
Target received a C overall and a score of 56. The business has a policy for each species of animal products and links the wellbeing of the animals to that policy. How much of their beef currently complies with the regulation is unknown, though. With 34 points and a C-, Ahold Delhaize, the owner of stores like Stop & Shop, Food Lion, and Giant, came in second. They also have publicly accessible policies for each species of animal product but struggle to really implement them. Meijer and Costco both scored a D since they only do a minimal amount of other things in addition to banning routine antibiotic usage in their private-label poultry and connecting the policy to animal welfare.
Only three of the 12 grocers responded when WebMD requested comments from them. ALDI mentioned their chicken products without antibiotics, whereas Walmart stated their stand on antibiotics. Ahold Delhaize replied but declined to make a statement before to seeing the report, which was under embargo for today.
Some smaller chains are doing better outside the top 12 chains. The article names three chains that already limit the use of antibiotics: Whole Foods, Mom’s Organic Market, and Natural Grocers. While the other two forbid widespread antibiotic usage for disease prevention, Whole Foods has gone all-in with a “no antibiotics ever” policy for store-brand products. Concerns concerning monitoring and verification programmes also surface here.
Why Antibiotic Use Is Important
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria and fungi adapt to antibiotic use, rendering the antibiotics useless against the pathogens. This raises the possibility of harmful or even fatal infections. More than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections are reported annually in the U.S., and more than 35,000 people pass away as a result, according to estimates from the CDC. Antibiotic resistance is one of “the largest dangers to global health, food security, and development today,” according to the World Health Organization.
Resistance is more likely to develop the more antibiotics are taken. Additionally, large-scale animal producers utilise a lot of antibiotics, including many that are equally crucial for human medicine and are commonly used by people. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 44% more of those medications are administered to animals than to people. They are frequently employed to avoid common diseases rather than to treat them.
Animals that are ill should be treated with antibiotics, according to Wellington. However, they should not be used to prevent diseases that are brought on by the animals’ stressful, crowded, and unhygienic living conditions.
According to Wellington, grocery stores are the main source of information for consumers about meat products. Therefore, if grocery stores took action and declared, “We won’t source meat raised with the overuse of antibiotics for our private label products,” it would not only change the meat business but also assist to inform consumers about this issue.
Drawing Attention to and Urging Action
In order to shed light on how the extensive use of antibiotics in food-animal production affects human health, the group released a report.
Roach states, “We’re not concerned about antibiotics in the meat you consume. “We’re concerned about difficult-to-treat germs that result from antibiotic misuse.”
The following are a few of the report’s six grocery chain recommendations:
- Ensure that routine use of antibiotics, especially those with vital medicinal applications, will be phased out.
- Transparency and data collecting about the use of antibiotics should be improved.
- Check the progress of the supply farms using independent observers.
Consumers also have a responsibility.
Buy meat that was reared without antibiotics and “vote with your pocketbook,” advises Wellington. “That will motivate further producers. And demand that your supermarkets put a strict policy in place for private-label goods.
When purchasing meat, seek for seals that state “Animal Welfare Approved,” “Certified Humane,” or “Global Animal Partnership Certified,” as these are verifiable standards for animal welfare. The report advises against relying on “One Health Certified” certifications because they were created by the meat industry and mirror current industrial farming practises. You can continue regularly use antibiotics.
The paper also offers suggestions for institutional meat purchasers, federal and municipal authorities, investors, and meat producers.
Making those changes requires work, but we know it’s feasible and worthwhile. We’re discussing the preservation of medicine that can save lives, says Wellington. “We can’t afford to lose those medications to make a burger or pork chop that’s a little bit cheaper.”