New Trader Joe’s in Colorado is target of Meat Without Drugs campaign

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New Trader Joe’s In Denver & Boulder Is Target Of Meat Without Drugs Campaign

Consumers Union Urges Grocery Store To Sell Only Meat & Poultry Raised Without Antibiotics 

DENVER, CO – After months of anticipation, Trader Joe’s is finally opening its first stores in Colorado on February 14, at two locations in Denver and one in Boulder.    While Trader Joe’s has earned a reputation for being a fun and funky grocery store that offers appealing products at reasonable prices, it’s also the focus of Consumers Union’s Meat Without Drugs campaign.

Consumers Union’s campaign is working to convince grocery stores – starting with Trader Joe’s – to stop selling meat from animals routinely fed antibiotics.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most public health experts agree that the overuse of antibiotics on healthy livestock threatens public health by promoting the spread of drug resistant superbugs.

“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 have made this commitment.  Denver-based Chipotle has been a vocal advocate against the overuse of antibiotics in meat production.  Similarly, Panera Bread has made a commitment to serving meat raised without antibiotics.

In addition the JeffersonCounty and Boulder school systems have taken steps to obtain their meat for school lunches from no-antibiotics sources.  Jefferson County Public Schools, the second largest school system in the state, is now serving locally-sourced chicken raised without antibiotics for some lunches, while all of the beef and chicken served by BoulderCounty schools is raised locally without antibiotics.

Colorado resident Diane Birmingham, R.N., who has worked in public health for over 35 years, has posted a petition on Change.org that has garnered 1,500 signatures so far from local residents calling on Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat from animals raised on antibiotics.

“We’re not going to get a handle on the growing problem of antibiotic resistance until meat producers stop misusing these medications on healthy animals,” said Birmingham.  “Antibiotics should only be used to treat animals that are truly sick.  We need companies like Trader Joe’s to take a stand and only sell meat from suppliers that ensure the responsible use of antibiotics.”

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 cows, pigs, and chickens 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.

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.

“Trader Joe’s is in an excellent position to be a real industry leader on this issue,” said Halloran.  “It could make a big difference by sourcing its meat from suppliers who don’t rely on antibiotics to keep animals healthy.”

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