Colorado Consumers, Doctors, Farmers Call on Subway to Save Antibiotics

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Action by Restaurant Giant Would Help Stop Rise of “Superbugs”


Thousands of consumers, doctors, farmers and Coloradans joined a call to action for restaurant giant Subway to phase out meats produced with routine use of antibiotics (i.e. for growth promotion and disease prevention). As the largest fast-food chains in the world, Subway’s action on this issue would help tackle the growing health crisis of antibiotic resistance.

“As a company that prides itself on being a healthy fast food option, Subway should stake out a leadership position by serving meat not raised on antibiotics,” said Tim Cywinski, Campaign Organizer with the state advocacy group CoPIRG. “Thousands of consumers, doctors, farmers and Coloradans from across the state agree – we need the world’s largest fast food chain to go antibiotic free if we are going to preserve this critical drug for future generations.”

While Subway is currently testing in Southern California a sandwich using chicken raised without antibiotics, the company has no further public commitment to offer regarding poultry and meat produced without the routine use of antibiotics across its U.S. stores. If Subway, the world’s largest fast-food chain, required its suppliers to stop raising meat with routine antibiotics use, it would help build broader industry pressure on meat and poultry producers to reform their production practices.

In recent months, a host of major buyers and poultry producers including Perdue, McDonald’s, and Tyson Foods – the largest chicken producer in the United States – have committed to buying or producing chicken without the routine use of medically-important antibiotics. Chick-fil-A has made a commitment to only purchase chicken raised without antibiotics within five years. Subway competitor Panera Bread has provided customers with meat and poultry from animals raised without antibiotics for years.

“McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Chipotle, Good Times, Chick-fil-A, and many other chains have responded to growing consumer demand or have been moved by the urgency of saving antibiotics,” said Cywinski “We need Subway to do the same.”

Cywinski stood in front of 8-foot long sandwich made out of photos of local consumers calling on Subway to act. CoPIRG’s campaign garnered support from across Colorado and received testimony from healthcare professionals and agricultural experts in support of this call for change.  

“The indiscriminate use of antibiotics in the agricultural industry has manifold implications that negatively impact the health of humans and our environment.” Says Dr. Ben Young of Summit County “I call on Subway to reconsider the use of antibiotics on meats in their supply chain.”

Dr. Young is an Infectious Disease Clinician and Global Health Advocate from Silverthorne, CO. He joined a coalition of over 100 healthcare professionals who signed on to a letter of support sent to the CEO of Subway. The coalition was also comprised of small farmers and experts in the agricultural sector.

Many large industrial farms routinely give antibiotics to animals that are not sick to speed up growth and preventively to compensate for poor diets and stressful, crowded and often unsanitary confinement conditions.

Carrie Balkom, Executive Director of the America Grassfed Association, lives in Denver and says, “In putting animals back on pasture, and getting them out of confined feeding operations, the need for massive amounts of routine antibiotics given to animals that aren’t sick becomes unnecessary.”

This summer alone, CoPIRG collected over 4,000 petitions along with hundreds of photos of consumers holding signs calling on Subway to take this lead in protecting public health. Subway can join dozens of other large restaurant chains and meat producers.

Dr. Amy Martin, a Denver Physician, says this is a much-needed step. “Antibiotics have been a pillar of modern medicine for decades, but they MUST be used responsibly. The misuse of this life saving medicine by administration to livestock without infections can lead to widespread resistance by bacteria, thus creating huge obstacles in curing many diseases and resulting in a backslide in the treatment of previously management infections.”

Background on antibiotics overuse on industrial farms:

Due to misuse and overuse, leading medical experts warn that antibiotics could stop working – 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 that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. Despite this threat to public health, 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 preventively to compensate for poor diets and stressful, crowded and often unsanitary confinement conditions.

For more information:

•    Read the public letter to Subway:
•    Click here to see CoPIRG’s Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics page.
•    Click here to download the CoPIRG Foundation’s Consumer Guide to find out which restaurants have taken steps to transition away from using meat raised with antibiotics.