CU urges Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat raised on antibiotics upon opening of new Burlington, VT store

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For Immediate Release:  Monday, May 12, 2014

 

Consumers Union Ad Urges Trader Joe’s To Help Curb A Major Public Health Crisis

 Campaign Calls On Grocer To Stop Selling Meat Raised On Antibiotics

BURLINGTON, VT – In a full page ad appearing in the Burlington Free Press, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, called on Trader Joe’s today to stop selling meat from animals raised on antibiotics.  The ad highlights how the overuse of antibiotics on healthy livestock by the meat industry threatens public health by making these medications less effective for treating disease.

Trader Joe’s is opening its first store in Burlington on Friday, May 16.  Over 650,000 consumers across the country have signed petitions, postcards, and flyers calling on Trader Joe’s to be an industry leader on this critical public health issue.

“The antibiotics we depend on to treat infectious diseases are losing their power,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union.  “We need to stop wasting these critical medications on healthy livestock.  Trader Joe’s can take an important stand for public health by no longer selling meat from animals that have been routinely fed antibiotics.”

Consumers Union is opposed to the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock and has supported legislation to prohibit antibiotic use except when animals are sick.  The consumer group has urged Congress and the FDA to take action to curtail the overuse of antibiotics in meat production, but meaningful efforts have been stymied by the pharmaceutical and livestock industries for decades.

The effort to get Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat raised on antibiotics comes at a time when other food companies are taking this stand.  In February, Chick-fil-A announced that, within five years, it will no longer sell chicken that has been raised on antibiotics.  Other national chains like Whole Foods, Chipotle, and Panera Bread have already made this commitment.

Locally, many Burlington businesses and restaurants sell only meat raised without the use of antibiotics for their customers, such as Healthy Living Market & Cafe in South Burlington.  The Bluebird local restaurants and Farmhouse Tap & Grill also source their meat from local producers that raise animals without the routine use of antibiotics.   Back in 2005, Fletcher Allen Healthcare became one of the first hospitals in the nation to create a plan to phase out the use of meat raised with antibiotics from the hospital’s menu, each year getting closer to its goal.  The Burlington Public School system also sources local no-antibiotics chicken and beef for area students.

“As we welcome Trader Joe’s to Vermont, I implore them, as a mother and a customer to commit to only selling meats raised without antibiotics,” said Kelly Adams, of Essex Junction.  “We all have a role to play in the stewardship of antibiotics in all facets of our lives.  I hope Trader Joe’s will step-up to their role by making this commitment.”

Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used not on humans but on animals.  These antibiotics are fed mostly to healthy animals like chickens, cows, and pigs to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in often crowded and unsanitary conditions on today’s industrial farms.  While public health campaigns have helped to curb the use of antibiotics in humans, antibiotic use in livestock is still increasing.

When antibiotics are used on the farm, the bugs that are vulnerable to them tend to be killed off, leaving behind “superbugs” resistant to antibiotics.  Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread from the farm to our communities via meat and poultry, farmworkers, and through the air, soil, and water.  As antibiotic resistance increases, the medications used to treat infections in people become less effective.

Consumers Union is targeting Trader Joe’s because eighty percent of its products are private label, which means it has more control over its suppliers and can use that leverage to increase supply and keep prices competitive.  A Consumer Reports investigation found that Trader Joe’s already sells some beef and much of its chicken raised without antibiotics (although no pork), and a recent survey of stores nationwide indicates that the grocer has slowly started carrying store-brand ground turkey raised without antibiotics.

“Trader Joe’s is in an excellent position to be a real industry leader on this issue,” said Halloran.  “It is already close to carrying only no-antibiotics chicken.  It could make a big difference by making a full commitment on chicken and working towards sourcing all of its meat from suppliers who don’t rely on antibiotics to keep animals healthy.”

A 2013 poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 69 percent of shoppers who bought meat at Trader Joe’s thought that the grocer should stop selling meat and poultry from animals routinely fed antibiotics.  In recent years, the grocer has made a commitment to other sustainable purchasing practices, such as only carrying eggs from cage-free hens and sourcing its private label products with non-genetically modified ingredients.

 

Contact:  Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org415-902-9537 (cell) or 415-431-6747, ext 126 (office)