Consumer Reports scrutinizes antibiotic use in food production

The cover of the Consumer Reports report "Meat on Drugs."
Consumer Reports

(CBS News) The new Consumer Reports report (pdf) argues that public health is being put at risk by the widespread use of antibiotics in the U.S. meat supply.

Consumer Reports antibiotics in meat report

Urvashi Rangan, director of Consumer Safety at Consumer Reports - an independent product-testing organization - explained the primary issue at hand is the use of antibiotics in animal production. She said the misuse of antibiotics is leading to a "public health crisis."

"We use actually 80 percent of the antibiotics we produce in this country every year on animal production," Rangan said on "CBS This Morning." "... Bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics, making it harder to treat diseases in people. ... You should use antibiotics for treating diseases, but do you need to feed it to healthy animals every day to promote growth and prevent disease - we don't think so."

The meat and poultry business is America's number one user of antibiotics. Rangan said the issue is not the antibiotics on the meat when it's consumed. She said the primary issue is the use of antibiotics on farms to keep healthy animals healthy, especially in industrial-scale confined animal feed operations. "It's really a sort of an artificial system," she said. "The bacteria on the farm (is) becoming more and more resistant (to the antibiotics). And when that (bacteria) goes downstream and a consumers is exposed to that later on, they can get a disease that's resistant to being treated by antibiotics and it can become harder and harder to treat those diseases in people."

The report, part of Consumer Reports "Meat on Drugs" campaign that's focusing on antibiotics in food, includes a consumer poll and secret shopper visits to 13 major grocery chains in 23 states. It also includes details on which stores offer the widest selections of meat and poultry raised without antibiotics and what consumers can do if they want to purchase such products.

For more on the report, watch Rangan's full "CTM" interview in the video above.