By Michael Curry
Student, Johns Hopkins University
In my sophomore year of college, I decided I wanted to become a student of public health and study how I could make a lasting impact on the Baltimore City community. I applied to Maryland PIRG for an internship and proceeded to research some of the issues the organization was, and is, still fighting for. I narrowed my interest to the Antibiotics Campaign and was instantly in awe when began to learn more about the prevalence of antibiotics resistant bacteria, or “superbugs”.
These ”superbugs” are on the rise and a threat to public health. Due to the growing prevalence of this antibiotic resistant bacteria, many doctors and nurses are no longer able to prescribe antibiotics that would typically be used for common injuries, surgeries, and illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the number of antibiotic resistant infections in the United States at around 2 million cases a year. One of the reasons for this resistance is the ongoing, low-dose use of antibiotics in the agricultural sector, where up to 70 percent of human antibiotics are sold for use in farm animals.
It was stories and facts like these inspired me to become more wholly involved with the Antibiotics Campaign. I felt that every person who knew about this issue would feel the same way I had; the only issue was that not enough people were learning about this threat. Once I received the internship position I knew I wanted to use social media and other tools to educate the public about this important topic, which is why I, along with other Maryland PIRG interns, created the Save Antibiotics: Baltimore Restaurant Guide. Shoppers can usually find antibiotic-free meat in grocery stores, but it’s harder to act responsibly when dining out.
The guide serves as an educational tool to inform Baltimore City residents about antibiotic use on farms. It also directs folks to antibiotic-free restaurants near Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Campus and around other neighborhoods in Baltimore City. This guide enables students and other city residents to make conscious decisions about where they want to eat, and how that impacts the environment and public health. In addition, our hope is that this tool will raise awareness about antibiotic resistant bacteria. The guide also gives people practical solutions and ways in which they can help assuage this problem.
Growing demand from consumers for meat raised without antibiotics has had a major impact on the market and demonstrated that stopping use of routine antibiotics isn’t just good for public health, it’s good for business. We hope this guide well encourage consumers to vote with their folks and support restaurants that are sourcing antibiotic-free.
With the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act on the horizon, Maryland is so close to becoming the 2nd state in the country to ban routine low dose use of antibiotics in poultry, beef, and pork production (thanks to support from Fair Farms consumers like you!). As a next step, Maryland PIRG, and a national coalition of groups are calling are now calling on the beef industry to do their part.