Avoiding antibiotics in meat

Consumer Reports' investigation released

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Superbugs are on the rise. They're bacteria that are resistant to one or more antibiotics and they kill thousands of people a year. The routine feeding of antibiotics to the animals we eat is a contributing factor, says Consumer Reports. And its just-released survey finds a majority of people want meat in their supermarket that's raised without antibiotics.

You probably assume most antibiotics are prescribed for people.  Not so. It's estimated that 80 percent of the antibiotics used in this country are given to animals to help them grow faster and to prevent disease in unsanitary conditions.

This is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, according to Consumer Reports Jean Halloran. And if you get sick, you could be in trouble.

"It may be very difficult to find an antibiotic that will help you get well. It may even be impossible," said Halloran.

And the problem is widespread. When Consumer Reports last tested chicken, two-thirds of the samples had harmful bacteria, and more than half of these bugs were resistant to antibiotics.

You can find meat that's been raised without antibiotics. In fact, at Whole Foods that's the only kind of meat for sale. But at other stores, it can be much harder to figure out what you're getting.

"We found a few labels that were misleading and not even approved by the government." said Halloran.

"Antibiotic Free," is one example. And the label "Natural," while government-approved, has nothing to do with antibiotics.

More helpful labels are ones like "No Antibiotics Administered" and "No Antibiotics Ever." But even better are labels that also say "USDA Process Verified."

"This means the government has gone out and checked on the processor to make sure they're doing what they claim," explained Halloran.

"Organic" is another sure bet for shoppers. All organic meat is raised without antibiotics.

Looking for these labels is the best way to ensure that the meat you're buying has no antibiotics.

Consumer Reports found that meat raised without antibiotics doesn't necessarily cost a lot more than regular meat. Its shoppers found it at very reasonable prices in several stores.

Read Consumer Reports' complete investigation on antibiotics and meat

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