Stop The Overuse Of Antibiotics

USDA Launches Effort to Strengthen “Raised Without Antibiotics” Labeling

Consumers can help end the overuse of antibiotics in meat, but only with accurate labels

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new effort to strengthen the substantiation of animal-raising claims, including the important “Raised Without Antibiotics” label.  Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” sicken millions of Americans each year and kill tens of thousands.  Overuse of antibiotics contributes to the creation of these superbugs, and nearly two thirds of medically important antibiotics are not given to humans, rather they are used in animal agriculture, so the USDA’s announcement is a welcome development.

“Consumers should be able to trust that the label claims they see on products bearing the USDA mark of inspection are truthful and accurate,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in announcing this new effort. 

Increased awareness of the routine use of medically important antibiotics in meat has led producers to advertise their products as “Raised Without Antibiotics.” That consumer demand can be a powerful force for change, but only if the label claims are true.  Unfortunately, there is evidence that the claims are not always accurate.  A study published in Science in 2022, authored by Dr. Lance Price of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University and others, found that a substantial portion of cattle destined for the “Raised Without Antibiotics” market had actually been given antibiotics.  So, PIRG applauds this USDA initiative and will monitor the results of the investigation.

Consumer pressure to reduce the overuse of antibiotics, aided by accurate labels of products on store shelves, can make a difference. In addition to individual consumers, large institutional meat purchasers can also exert pressure on the market for reform, which is why PIRG continues to call on McDonald’s to honor it’s 2018 commitment to reduce antibiotics in its beef supply chain.

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