Animal Legal Defense Fund Petitions USDA to Regulate Labels on Meat and Poultry Containing Antibiotics

Posted on May 16, 2013

ALDF Calls on Federal Agency to Protect Public from "Superbug" Crisis Posed by Factory Farms

For immediate release


Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), asking the agencies to properly label meat and poultry products derived from animals raised with antibiotics. Mass administration of antibiotics in factory farms is routinely used to prevent the spread of disease in these high-density, unsanitary, and close-confined spaces. The drugs also promote rapid animal growth on less feed, which saves producers money by speeding an animal’s development to "slaughter weight." ALDF’s petition asks the federal agencies to protect public health and animal well-being by requiring producers to provide accurate labels on product packaging that would allow consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing food. The petition marks the first legal effort to inform the public of the potential public health disaster posed by "sub-therapeutic" antibiotic use on factory farms. ALDF is represented by Alison Langlais from the law firm of Proskauer Rose, LLP.

Approximately 80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to livestock, nearly all of which is administered at "sub-therapeutic" levels (not for illnesses). Mass usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture has resulted in antibiotic resistant "superbugs." Empirical studies indicate that antibiotic resistant E. coli and salmonella likely have their origins in farmed animals, who have been administered antibiotics at sub-therapeutic levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that sub-therapeutic antibiotic use in animal agriculture is a threat to public health. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirms a causal link between antibiotic use in animals and adverse human health effects, such as increased hospitalization and heightened risks of life-threatening infections.

"The quick-fix use of unnecessary drugs is rampant on factory farms that deprive animals of proper care for the sake of increased profits," said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. "Federal agencies must ensure accurate labeling for the well-being of animals and the health of the public. The abuse of drugs is fundamental to factory farming and consumers have the right to make informed choices."

ALDF’s petition is available by request. ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit

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