Consumers worldwide need to be alerted to, and protected from, the public-health crisis of antibiotic resistance. That’s the message Consumer Reports President Marta Tellado delivered to a landmark meeting of United Nations delegates today in New York.
In the U.S. alone, 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why? Because 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are not for treating sick people, but for preventing disease and speeding up the growth of food animals. This trend, as well as the overprescription of antibiotics in human medicine, has helped fuel the rise in deadly superbugs.
But it’s also a worldwide problem, Tellado told the delegates, who are considering steps to combat antibiotic resistance, at a high-level meeting during the General Assembly.
“If we don’t find a solution now, economists predict the deaths from these infections will outpace cancer deaths worldwide by 2050. This is unacceptable, and we cannot let it happen on our watch,” she said.
Consumer Reports is pressing government and industry to take tougher measures to stop the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Over the past year, CR has published a series of investigative reports on antibiotic resistance, including the surge of superbugs in U.S. hospitals and the role that antibiotics play in the production of our meat supply. CR recommends that antibiotics be limited to curing sick animals, and not be used for growth promotion or disease prevention in crowded poultry, cattle, and pork production facilities.
Tellado also cites some encouraging signs in a new report released by a group of consumer, environmental, and health organizations. That report – Chain Reaction II – found that nine of the 25 largest fast food chains in the U.S. are adopting strong policies that prohibit the routine use of antibiotics, or medically important antibiotics, in the meat and poultry they serve.
More information about Consumer Reports’ work in support of antibiotic stewardship and reducing antibiotic resistance is online here.
For information on what individuals can do to make sure they’re not misusing or overusing antibiotics, visit our In Depth: Antibiotics section.