What's the truth about antibiotics in food?

Consumer Reports explains how to decipher product labeling when it comes to purchasing meat and poultry products.

More people are buying chicken and beef with labels that promise no antibiotics according to a nationally representative Consumer Reports survey. The trend comes out of concerns about antibiotic resistance. But, what do the “no antibiotics” labels really mean? Consumer Report says you’d be surprised.

Research shows there is a connection between the overuse of antibiotics in food animals and drug-resistant infections in people. In other words, our arsenal of antibiotics may no longer work to kill bacteria that cause certain illnesses. Consumer Reports calculates that about one in five people who got an antibiotic resistant infection got it from something they ate.

To avoid antibiotic treated animals, check the labels carefully. A that label says “no growth promoting antibiotics” that means those used to enable quicker weight gain. But look at the much smaller print and you’ll see that antibiotics might still have been used in this turkey to treat or prevent illness.

Another twist -- some fast food restaurants, KFC, Taco Bell and Wendy’s for instance, promise that now or soon they will only serve poultry that is raised “without antibiotics important to human medicine” meaning none that are given to people. Eliminating medically important antibiotics does help thwart antibiotic resistance. But it’s not as good as eliminating all antibiotic use in healthy animals.

Your best bet is to look for labels that say “never given antibiotics” “No antibiotics ever” or “raised without antibiotics.”

So does the label “organic” automatically mean the meat was raised without antibiotics? Look for the USDA organic seal for organic products. And to kill bacteria of any kind always be sure to cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and steak to 145 degrees. Ground beef should reach 160 degrees.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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