Consumer

Avoiding antibiotics in meat

Sunday, July 08, 2012

You probably assume most antibiotics are prescribed to 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. 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. And the problem is widespread. When Consumer Reports tested chicken in 2009, two-thirds of the samples had harmful bacteria, and more than half of the bugs were resistant to antibiotics.

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

Consumer Reports investigation found a few labels that were misleading and not even approved by the government. "Antibiotic Free," is one example. And the label "Natural," while approved, has nothing to do with antibiotics.

More helpful labels are ones like "No Antibiotics Administered" and "No Antibiotics Ever." But even better are ones that also say "USDA Process Verified." This means the government has checked on the processor to make sure they're doing what they claim.

"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 meat produced without antibiotics at very reasonable prices in several stores.

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