It’s damn near impossible to get 93% of Americans to agree on anything, but that’s the percentage of doctors who told a recently released Consumer Reports poll that they were concerned about the common practice of feeding perfectly healthy livestock in this country constant low levels of antibiotics—a practice banned in much of the civilized world.
Groups that included Physicians for Social Responsibility, Natural Resources Defense Council, and National Physicians Alliance, in addition to the Consumers Union, have long held that feeding farm animals drugs creates strains of bacteria that resist even the most potent antibiotics. Infections from these so-called “Superbugs” kill 23,000 Americans a year, and many of the germs responsible originate on farms.
The Consumers Union also sent a letter signed by more than 2,000 medical professionals to Trader Joe’s, urging the niche grocery chain to stop selling meat from animals fed regular low-dose antibiotics (Trader Joe’s competitor Whole Foods Market already follows such a policy).
The Food and Drug Administration has known for nearly four decades that misusing antibiotics in this way is hurting Americans’ health, and has yet to take any serious steps to stop the practice.
Last month President Obama ducked the issue by telling cabinet secretaries to come up with a five-year action plan. He ought to act now—doctors’ orders.