Weis Markets Must Act to Fight Superbugs

    April 30, 2018

The Daily Item Masthead

This piece, written by Alicia LaPorte, Fair Farms Campaign Manager, was originally published by the Sunbury Daily Item

Ask Weis Markets to Fight Superbugs:

This week, Sunbury-based Weis Markets, Inc. will hold its annual meeting of shareholders and the company’s directors will discuss a range of issues with those who have an interest in the company. Unfortunately for all of us, Weis’ relationship with Sanderson Farms is not on the agenda. It should be. If any of you reading this have known someone who has suffered from an antibiotic-resistant infection, or even used antibiotics period, then this will be of interest to you.

Here’s the low-down: Several of the country’s top poultry companies, like Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods, have heeded the call to adopt “responsible antibiotic use” policies. Basically, this means they agree to stop the practice of giving routine doses of human antibiotics to livestock. However, there is still one major outlier that continues to use medically-important antibiotics in a way that alarms public health professionals — Sanderson Farms.

When animals are given regular doses of antibiotics to compensate for living conditions and prevent infection, the weak bacteria are killed while the resistant strains remain. This creates a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria we call “superbugs” to thrive. The World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree that these antibiotic resistant bacteria leave the farm and pose a human health risk.

Sanderson Farms proudly boasts that it “has raised its broiler chickens with antibiotics for 70 years, and has no plans to change.” Sanderson dismisses decades of scientific research connecting the routine use of human antibiotics in livestock with the troubling rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria globally. Even worse, the company has launched a misleading advertising campaign claiming that meat raised without antibiotics is just a “marketing gimmick.”

Weis Markets is selling chicken from Sanderson Farms as its house brand. We’ve contacted Weis Markets several times to discuss this issue with them, but they have not responded to our requests. Weis can and should ensure that the producers of its store-brand chicken clean up their act — or they should dump them and choose a different supplier that uses antibiotics responsibly.

When we go to the market, we want to be thoughtful about the long-term impacts of our purchases. And when a company like Weis touts its sustainability efforts, we put our trust in them. But with 2 million people in the U.S. getting sick every year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 people dying from these illnesses, we all have a role to play in ensuring we don’t lose the single most important tool in modern medicine.

Simply put, if you buy the store brand chicken at Weis Markets, you might actually be buying Sanderson Farms poultry and inadvertently contributing to the antibiotic resistance crisis. We have no major beef with Weis — we know many people who love to shop there, and we know there are a number of ways they have contributed positively to our local communities.

But Weis has a critical role to play in ensuring antibiotics continue to work for our kids and grandkids. We urge Weis Markets to give consumers a better choice for their families by dealing head-on with its Sanderson Farms problem and adopting a healthy antibiotics policy for their store brand chicken. Next time you’re shopping there, let their management know you feel the same.

Alicia LaPorte is the Campaign Manager for Fair Farms, a campaign to bring together consumers, farmers, public health professionals, and conservationists to advocate for visionary farming practices and support farmers who farm against the grain while protecting waterways and lands. 

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