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NCPIRG relaunches antibiotic campaign in aim to flip the food marketplace

UNC’s North Carolina Public Interest Research Group chapter latest campaign focuses on tackling the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms.

According to the NCPIRG website, an increasing number of farms are using antibiotics on their livestock as a purely preventative measure. In addition to making animals gain weight at a faster rate, the use of antibiotics are also a threat to humans, raising the likelihood that bacteria will become resistant to treatment.

Last semester, the organization targeted Bojangles to launch the same campaign. With thousands of petition signatures, they sparked public awareness on the issue and are looking to do the same this semester. 

“We’re still waiting to hear a few things about exactly what restaurant we will be targeting this semester,” sophomore Jackie Litynski, campaign organizer, said. “We want to get them to commit to stop buying meats raised with antibiotics.”

Litynski said the process for carrying out a campaign often begins with directives and initiative from the national PIRG. From there, campus organizations choose which issue area to focus on. 

“All issues are voted on by students of the chapter,” said campus organizer Kristen Carver. “I then work with them to devise a plan for their goals.”

One student who embodies the hard work ethic of the organization is first-year Halah Little. She spoke during a press conference at a local Arby’s, a company that lacks policy on antibiotic use in their meat.

“The bottom line is that antibiotics are overused and as a result are losing their effectiveness,” said Little in the press release. “Approximately 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used for food animals. In many cases the drugs are given to the animals not because they are sick, but to compensate for unsanitary conditions.”

NCPIRG tracks the ranks of popular restaurant chains in terms of their dedication to avoid antibiotic meats. 

“Chipotle and Panera Bread continue to lead the pack as the only two companies to receive A’s for restricting routine antibiotic use throughout their entire meat supply chains,” said Little.

The hope is that the companies who fall short, such as Arby’s, Olive Garden and Chili’s, will begin to implement new strategies that are safer for their consumers. Other companies such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, who earned the title of most improved, are taking action to reduce antibiotic use.

“They went from an F to a B- for its newly announced commitment to no longer serve chicken raised with medically important antibiotics in U.S. locations by the end of 2018,” she said.

Litynski encouraged those who want to get involved to reach out to their local restaurants and grocery stores.

“Tell them to get routine antibiotics out of the meat you are buying,” said Litynski. “Small things like that ultimately make a big difference.”

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