Livestock producers routinely give antibiotics to animals to make them grow faster or help them survive crowded, stressful, and unsanitary conditions. When these drugs are overused—by humans or animals—some bacteria become antibiotic-resistant, threatening the future effectiveness of these medicines. Public-health officials say antibiotic resistance is one of the leading human health threats of our time.
NRDC works to address this crisis by pushing food companies to reduce the use of these drugs in their supply chains. Working with our allies, we have helped publicize the problem of livestock antibiotic overuse, developed clear standards defining antibiotic stewardship, and encouraged a number of major food companies to adopt better practices. We challenged the antibiotics-use practices at Foster Farms, the largest chicken producer on the West Coast, and Subway, the largest restaurant chain in the world. Both companies committed to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics important for human medicine. We also helped persuade a coalition of the largest school districts in the country, which together serve three million students daily, to commit to serve chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics. Similar recent pledges by McDonald's, Tyson, Taco Bell, Costco, Pizza Hut, and others prove that market-place momentum is building.
We also need government action to make sure that these improvements are adopted broadly. We continue to push the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop antibiotic overuse in the livestock industry, and we are advocating for policies at the state level that would reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in animals and help preserve the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs. In 2015, working with the Brown Administration in California, we helped pass the nation's first law to collect information about antibiotic use on the farm and curb routine use on livestock.