New poll reveals overwhelming majority of doctors concerned about antibiotics use on healthy food animals

For Immediate Release
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2014
MASSPIRG

Boston, Massachusetts - The overwhelming majority of doctors--a total of 93 percent--are concerned about the common meat industry practice of using antibiotics on healthy animals for growth promotion and disease prevention, according to a new poll released today commissioned by Consumer Reports and released by Consumers Union and U.S. PIRG.

The results of the poll were presented today at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston to members of the Massachusetts medical community who came together around the misuse of antibiotics.

“Doctors need antibiotics to keep working, and they want factory farms to stop using this medicine on healthy animals,” said Kirstie Pecci, Staff Attorney at MASSPIRG. “Nearly every major public health group has come out against this practice, saying reforms are needed if antibiotics are to continue working. And yet the meat industry acts as if it’s too bitter a pill to swallow.”

According to poll results and analysis available in the new report, Prescription for Change, 97 percent of doctors are concerned about the growing problem of drug-resistant infections. Nearly a third of doctors polled had had a patient die or suffer significant complications within the last year from a multi-drug resistant infection. The numbers were even higher for doctors who work in both outpatient and hospital settings.

“Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness due to the growing emergence of ‘superbugs,’ bacteria that are resistant to one or more classes of the drugs,” said Meagen Bohne, Meat Without Drugs Campaign Director for Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports. “Untargeted and widespread use of antibiotics in meat production is contributing to this problem.”

Other key findings of the Consumer Reports poll include:

• 85% percent of doctors report that one or more of their patients had had either a presumed or confirmed case of a multi-drug resistant infection in the past 12 months.

• Of those doctors who treated a confirmed or suspected case of a multi-drug resistant infection, 35% treated a patient who either died or suffered serious consequences as a result of the illness. That number jumps to nearly half for doctors that work in both outpatient and hospital settings. 80% of doctors agree that the group, hospital or practice they work for is actively working to minimize the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics.

At today’s convening, Health Care Without Harm showcased its efforts to unite more than 350 hospitals across the country to serve meals that feature meat raised without non-therapeutic antibiotics on Food Day (October 24). Partners Healthcare and two affiliate facilities, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston and Cooley Dickinson Hospital, also discussed their participation in a new Massachusetts Hospital Association initiative alongside a broader national effort to transition institutional purchases to meat raised without routine antibiotics.

More than 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 poultry to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in often crowded and unsanitary conditions on today’s industrial farms. A recent report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that antibiotics use in livestock production increased 16% between 2009 and 2012.

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