In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked Foster Farms, the sixth largest chicken producer in the country and the largest chicken company in the Western U.S., to an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg. According to the CDC, 524 people from 25 states and Puerto Rico have become ill since March 2013. However, based on CDC estimates of Salmonella infection underdiagnosis rates, the outbreak may have sickened more than 15,000 people. Nearly 40 percent of those infected had to be hospitalized -- double the typical rate -- and 13 percent developed blood infections. By spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria to our communities and kitchens, Foster Farms has contributed to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance and threatening our health.
Scientists agree that when antibiotics are used routinely to raise farm animals, resistant bacteria can breed and spread. Health experts warn that overuse of antibiotics by both humans and livestock now threatens the effectiveness of these essential medicines for treating sick people. Unfortunately, Foster Farms mostly keeps its antibiotic use secret, so consumers have little information about which antibiotics are being given to its birds and why. Well-managed facilities, not antibiotics, are key to promoting flock health. NRDC is asking Foster Farms to disclose their antibiotics use and publicly commit to using medically important antibiotics only to treat sick birds and never for non-therapeutic purposes like growth promotion, routine disease prevention, or injection into chicken eggs.