NRDC Turns Up Pressure on Subway to Disclose Antibiotic Use in Meat Production

Campaign Calls on Fast Food Giant to Buy Meat Raised Without Antibiotics and Stand Alongside Competitors to Address Public Health Threat of Antibiotic Overuse

WASHINGTON D.C. (August 26, 2015) – As Subway marks its 50th anniversary later this week, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) today launched a national campaign urging Subway, the world’s largest fast food chain by number of locations, to publicly commit to phasing out the purchase of meats raised with the routine use of antibiotics. Many of Subway’s competitors, including McDonalds, Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle and Panera Bread, and others, have announced major initiatives to eliminate routine use of antibiotics by their suppliers, leaving Subway far behind the pack.

“Subway has been conspicuously silent on its antibiotic policies at a time when a flood of other industry leaders are stepping up to address the health threat of antibiotic abuse in meat production,” said Lena Brook, food policy advocate with the NRDC. “If Subway wants to be seen as serving a healthier alternative to fast food, it should assure its customers that it’s serving meat from farms where antibiotics are not over-used.”

NRDC is taking its concerns directly to Subway’s home turf, via billboards along the I-95 corridor near the company’s headquarters in Milford, CT.  NRDC specifically calls on Subway to implement a 3-step plan for antibiotic stewardship, including:

  1. Defining a time-bound action plan to phase out any routine use of antibiotics across Subway meat supply chains.
  2. Acting immediately to end the routine use of antibiotics important for human medicine in the production of chicken sold in Subway restaurants; and
  3. Adopting third-party auditing of its antibiotics use policy implementation and benchmark results to show progress in meeting the goals described above.

Thus far, Subway has not publically committed to purchasing meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics or disclosed its practices. The use of antibiotics again and again to make animals grow faster or help them survive crowded, stressful, unsanitary living conditions can spread antibiotic resistant bacteria (often called “superbugs”).  NRDC supports the use of antibiotics to treat sick animals.

NRDC’s campaign amplifies a written request sent to Subway CEO Frederick De Luca and President Suzanne Greco in June, which was co-signed by more than 60 organizations including Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Many of these organizations have come forward to coordinate petitions calling for action by Subway to disclose and phase out the routine use of antibiotics.

Last year, NRDC mounted a public-facing campaign aimed reducing antibiotics at Foster Farms, the largest poultry producer on the West Coast. Foster Farms has since announced that it has eliminated the routine use of antibiotics important for human medicine, joining a growing number of poultry producers that have committed to antibiotic stewardship.  

Background on antibiotics overuse on industrial farms:

As a result of the overuse of antibiotics among both humans and food animals, leading medical experts warn that antibiotics could stop working to treat common infections and medical procedures– with grave consequences for public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year at least two million Americans become infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. While both human and animal use contributes to this problem, up to 70 percent of medically-important antibiotics sold in the United States are for use on livestock and poultry. Many large industrial farms routinely give antibiotics to animals that are not sick to speed up growth and help animals survive stressful, crowded and often unsanitary confinement conditions.

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