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Last year, Clean Water Action, along with our partners in Fair Farms and the MD Keep Antibiotics Working coalition, passed legislation that phases out the use of antibiotics to treat healthy animals. Antibiotics can still be used to treat and control disease outbreaks.

Some of the largest chicken brands (Perdue, Tyson, and Pilgrim's) have already voluntarily committed phasing out the overuse of antibiotics. They understand that we need to safeguard antibiotics for when they are needed - the more often you use antibiotics to kill bacteria, the more we select only the strongest, most resistant bacteria to reproduce. Responsible antibiotic use doesn't mean that no chicken can ever be given an antibiotic - it means that they will only be used to control and treat disease.

However, there is one company that is defiantly against responsibly limiting their use of antibiotics: Sanderson Farms. Sanderson Farms even launched an advertising campaign claiming that not using antibiotics to treat health animals is just a marketing gimmick. This is not true.

The overuse of antibiotics to treat healthy animals is a problem that leads to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. The overuse of antibiotics by both humans and animals allow bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance. When we look at antibiotic consumption, 70% of antibiotics (that humans also use) are fed to livestock.

One way for antibiotic resistant bacteria to spread to humans is through crop fertilization - when chicken manure is used to provide nutrients to vegetables we eat. It can also spread through water runoff, exposure by farm workers, and contaminated meat (meat can come into contact with animal waste during processing). Federal regulations require that producers cease feeding antibiotics prior to slaughter, creating a withdrawal period.

The Maryland legislation that we worked on reduces the use of antibiotics in chickens grown here, but does not impact the chickens grown in other states.

Weis Markets uses Sanderson Farms as its house-brand chicken. We are asking Weis to make a change and adopt a responsible antibiotic use policy for its store brand poultry that prohibits vendors from the routine use of antibiotics on farm animals that are not sick!

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