What does the label 'no antibiotics' really mean when purchasing meat?

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-10 18:26:48-04

More people are buying chicken and beef with labels that promise no antibiotics according to a nationally-representative Consumer Reports survey.  The trend comes out of concerns about antibiotic resistance.  But, what do the “no antibiotics” labels really mean? Consumer Reports says you’d be surprised.

Restaurant owner Leslie Lampert says she makes every effort to make sure the meat for her restaurant is locally produced and raised without antibiotics. She says, “Does it cost more, yes. But do I feel great at the end of every night knowing it’s more healthful, yes.”

Research shows there is a connection between the overuse of antibiotics in food animals and drug resistant infections in people.

Consumer Reports Health Editor Trisha Calvo says, “In other words, our arsenal of antibiotics may no longer work to kill bacteria that cause certain illnesses. We calculate that about 1 in 5 people who got an antibiotic resistant infection got it from something they ate.”

To avoid antibiotic treated animals, check the labels carefully.

This label says “no growth promoting antibiotics” that means those used to enable quicker weight gain. -- But look at the much smaller print and you’ll see that antibiotics might still have been used in this turkey to treat or prevent illness.

Another twist – some fast food restaurants, KFC, Taco Bell and Wendy’s for instance, promise that now or soon they will only serve poultry that is raised “without antibiotics important to human medicine”  meaning none that are given to people.

Calvo also commented saying, “Eliminating medically important antibiotics does help thwart antibiotic resistance. But it’s not as good as eliminating  all antibiotic use in healthy animals.”

Your best bet is to look for labels that say “never given antibiotics” “No antibiotics ever” or “raised without antibiotics.”