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Antibiotics campaign targets US supermarkets

By Carina Perkins , 29-Jun-2012

Antibiotics campaign targets US supermarkets

A new campaign is calling on US supermarkets to stop selling meat raised on antibiotics, claiming that the majority of consumers want antibiotic-free meat.

The Meat Without Drugs campaign, which has been launched by Consumers Union in partnership with Fix Food, has begun by targeting the Trader Joe’s supermarket chain, which it says is most likely to make the policy change due to its commitment to sustainable purchasing practices. Campaigners have also written to the US Deparment of Agriculture (USDA) asking it to tighten labelling standards relating to antibiotic use.

The call comes after a new report by Consumer Union’s publishing arm, Consumer Reports, revealed that the availability of antibiotic-free meat varies hugely in the US, with some major supermarket chains failing to offer any antibiotic free meat. Consumers Union claims that this is at odds with consumer demand, with the majority of people (86%) polled stating that meat raised without antibiotics should be available at their local supermarket.

Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, said: “We are asking supermarkets to step up to the challenge and tell their suppliers to procure only meat and poultry that has been raised without antibiotics

“Antibiotics are losing their potency in people, leading to a major national health crisis, and we need to drastically reduce their use in food animals. We are calling on Trader Joe’s to be a leader and make this change now.”

The report also found that there were over 20 different labels related to antibiotic used on meat products in US supermarkets, many of which could not be relied upon to guarantee antibiotic-free production. It concluded that only the “organic” label and USDA approved labels could be trusted.

“Consumers who want to buy meat raised without antibiotics need a system they can rely on to feel secure that the labels on those products are meaningful and accurate. Our shoppers and research found several instances of labels that could mislead consumers to believe they were buying meat from animals that were not given antibiotics, when in fact that is not necessarily the case,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.

“Consumers would benefit from one standard, meaningful, USDA-verified label that is consistent on all meat and poultry products from animals raised without antibiotics.”

In its letter to the USDA, Consumer Reports asked the department to establish such a label and publish the names of companies approved to use it.

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