5 On Your Side

'No antibiotics:' What does that mean?

Posted August 8

— Many people are looking for healthier choices and simpler food without the unwanted extras. A major buzz word on food labels is "no antibiotics." But what does that actually mean?

Whether you're in the meat aisle in the grocery store, or perusing the menu at your favorite restaurant, antibiotics are a big concern.

Restaurant owner Leslie Lampert said she makes every effort to offer meat that's locally produced and raised without antibiotics.

"Does it cost more? Yes. But do I feel great at the end of every night knowing it's more healthful? Yes," Lampert said.

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

'No antibiotics:' What does that mean?

"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," said Trish Calvo with Consumer Reports.

To avoid antibiotic treated animals, check the labels carefully.

A label that says "no growth promoting antibiotics" means those used to enable quicker weight gain. But look at the much smaller print: antibiotics might still have been used in the meat to treat or prevent illness.

Some fast food restaurants, including KFC, Taco Bell and Wendy's, 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.

"Eliminating medically important antibiotics does help thwart antibiotic resistance. But it's not as good as eliminating all antibiotic use in healthy animals," Calvo said.

The best option is to look for labels that say "never given antibiotics," "no antibiotics ever" or "raised without antibiotics."

It's also important to note that the USDA organic seal for organic products is the safest option for meat without antibiotics.

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