Press Release: 3/20/2015, On the heels of a victory with McDonalds, students call on the FDA to phase out the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming.

This Spring Break a set of Rutgers students decided to skip the beach and do something more meaningful to them: build community support to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. More than 70% of the antibiotics sold in the US being used on livestock and poultry, mostly on animals that aren’t sick. So students decided to work with NJPIRG to go into communities all over central New Jersey and build citizen support calling on the FDA to protect our life-saving medicines.

This effort launches a new step in the campaign after a significant victory- McDonald’s announced a new policy to curb the overuse of antibiotics in raising the chickens that ultimately become McNuggets or other McDonald’s products. Within two years, farming operations supplying McDonald’s USA restaurants will not be allowed to use medically important antibiotics on their chickens, a practice that is now commonplace, even when animals are healthy.

“This is a super-sized change for McDonald’s, and we’re lovin’ it,” said Sujatha Jahargirdar, U.S. PIRG Antibiotics Program Director. “They will signal to the marketplace a huge and growing demand for chicken raised without antibiotics.”

McDonald’s is one of the nation’s largest purchasers of meat, and their commitment will vastly increase the demand for chicken raised without medically-important antibiotics. McDonald’s sells enough fast food to make them the 68th largest economy in the world—larger than Ecuador. U.S. PIRG has been running a national campaign asking McDonald’s to help tackle the growing public health crisis of antibiotic resistance by switching to meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics. There have been ‘super-sized’ responses in communities and on campuses around the nation, and online. From tens of thousands of people emailing the company, to a daily dose of online social media posts using the hashtag #McDonaldsSaveABX, the company has heard from customers and others urging them to make a change.

With its new policy, McDonald’s joins companies like Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread, Elevation Burger, Shake Shack and many others that have made strong commitments to help save antibiotics.

“With more than 23,000 Americans dying each year from antibiotic resistant infections, more must be done to stop the overuse of antibiotics in all meats,” said Junior Political Science major Becky Erdelyi. “We’re excited to see McDonalds take this foul play seriously, but now it’s time to take it across the country – we need the FDA to ban the overuse of antibiotics in all factory farming.”

“This is my first time going door to door and it’s been an empowering experience,” said Sophomore Arielle Mizrahi. “Anti-biotic resistant diseases are a serious concern for people we’re talking to, and we’ve been able to offer them a real solution that they can do something about.”

In just one week of going door-to-door in neighborhoods from Lawrenceville to Bridgewater, students have talked to nearly 1,000 people about the issue and collected hundreds of petitions calling on the FDA to take action.

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