Last week, Tyson Foods made big news when it announced that it was “striving” to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in the production of its chicken. Tyson is one of the world’s largest chicken producers. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called it “the tipping point for getting the chicken industry off antibiotics.” It’s part of a growing trend: recently, Chipotle, McDonald’s and other leading restaurants pledged to go antibiotic-free. (Note: Tyson is a major supplier for McDonald’s).
Concerns about antibiotic-resistant infections continue to grow. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “at least 2 million people become infected and 23,000 die as a direct result of antibiotic-resistant infections.” So these announcements are a step in the right direction.
But what does Tyson’s announcement really mean? And is it enough?
To many, this is the beginning and end of the issue. If neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has jurisdiction over antibiotic use on farms, the public is reliant on corporations to self-regulate–and self-report on their results.
“I don’t want to have to rely on the industry’s word that it’s doing something responsible,” says Keeve Nachman, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. “If it is doing something responsible, the FDA should be providing some verification that that change is actually occurring.”
A thought-provoking read.