Oct 12, 2022 – Three-quarters of the largest US grocery chains have failed to reduce antibiotic use in their home-branded fresh meats, contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance.
That’s according to a new report, “Superbugs in Stock,” prepared by members of the Alliance of Public Health and Animal Protection and consumer groups known as Antibiotics Off the Menu. Among the nation’s top food retailers, Target did the best—but it only got a C grade.
About half of the fresh meat sold in this country is purchased in stores.
“This means that the grocery industry has a potentially significant impact on how antibiotics are used in meat production,” says Matthew Wellington, director of public health campaigns at US PIRG, a member of the coalition. “This report shows the urgent need for further progress in the grocery sector.”
Report card for supermarkets
Over the past six years, the Alliance has focused on restaurants, with an annual report on the practices of major fast food restaurants and fast food chains. In the wake of these reports, many chains announced changes to their policies, although not all of them followed suit.
“We’ve seen progress in restaurant chains, so we wanted to look at where else people are getting most of their food,” says Stephen Roach of the Food Animal Concerns Trust, lead author of the report. “And in the face of the pandemic, where there has been a shift from people eating out to eating at home, we thought it was a good time to look at grocery chains.”
Roach and his co-authors collected information about supermarket chain policies on the use of antibiotics in chicken, turkey, pork and beef through a survey as well as company websites and published materials. They assign scores to different scoring criteria – things like having a meaningful and transparent public policy that relates to animal welfare, enforcing that policy, and using third-party verification.
Their findings do not entirely inspire confidence. Out of a dozen major grocery sellers in the United States, eight have a grade of F, with 10 points or less out of a possible 100. This group includes Kroger, Walmart, and Albertsons, which are three of the five highest-paid grocers in the United States. None of them have strong policies to cover the full range of fresh, private label meats.