Contact: Lucia von Reusner, Green Century Capital Management, 617-482-0800, firstname.lastname@example.org
June 25, 2015: At the supermarket chain’s annual shareholder meeting today, Kroger will be facing pressure from investors to take stronger action to curb the excessive use of antibiotics to produce the meat sold under its private label brands. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry to promote faster growth in crowded factory farm conditions is strongly linked to the recent spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing public health and consumer safety concern.
“Food safety should be the top priority of any supermarket,” noted Lucia von Reusner, Shareholder Advocate for Green Century Capital Management, the environmentally responsible investment advisory firm that manages fossil fuel free mutual funds. “As the threat to consumer safety from antibiotic-resistant bacteria becomes clear, Kroger faces major liabilities if it fails to keep pace with emerging expectations for the quality and safety of the meat it sells.”
Kroger is one of the nation’s largest supermarket chains, selling meat under its private label brands, including Heritage Farms. Citing risks to consumer safety and the company’s reputation associated with selling meat produced using excessive antibiotics, Green Century Capital Management filed a shareholder proposal urging the company to assess options for curbing the use of antibiotics to produce its private label meats.
“Responding to consumer preferences and pressure, major actors in the food industry have stepped up to the plate,” said Steve Blackledge, Public Health Program Director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). “We need Kroger to do the same, and it’s concerning that the company is balking at a mere study of options to reduce or eliminate the overuse of antibiotics in its meat supply.”
The spread of antibiotic resistant ‘superbug’ bacteria has become a major public health crisis in the U.S. and globally, and is strongly linked to the excessive application of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. Constantly administering low doses of antibiotics to animals enables bacteria to evolve to become resistant to those antibiotics. When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, infections that are normally treated with antibiotics become more severe and even deadly. Each year, around 23,000 people die from antibiotic resistant bacteria, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Eating food contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria is one way in which ‘superbugs’ can be transmitted from farms to infect people. Government testing of raw supermarket meat detected ‘superbug’ versions of salmonella, E. coli, or other bacteria in 81% of ground turkey, 55% of ground beef, and 39% of chicken sampled, posing significant risks to consumers.
Responding to consumer pressure and public concerns about the excessive use of antibiotics in food-animal production, a growing number of companies, including Chipotle,* Chik-fil-A,* Whole Foods,* Panera Bread,* McDonald’s,* and Wal-Mart,* have recently adopted policies aimed at restricting the excessive use of antibiotics to produce the meat they sell. Major meat suppliers including Perdue Foods,* Tyson,* and Foster Farms* have announced their intent to start phasing out the application of antibiotics that are medically important to humans.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, “Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill.”
“Grocers are an important stakeholder,” said von Reusner, referencing the WHO warning. “We need Kroger to do more.”
Green Century Capital Management is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds and offers two environmentally and socially responsible funds, the Green Century Equity Fund and the Green Century Balanced Fund. Green Century works to curb climate change through fossil fuel free investing, reinvestment in sustainable companies, and advocating with companies to improve their environmental policies and supply chains. Green Century also is the only U.S. mutual fund company owned by environmental non-profits, the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs).
*As of March 31, 2015, Whole Foods Market, Inc. comprised 1.00% and 0.25%, Panera Bread Company comprised 0.91% and 0.00%, and McDonald’s Corporation comprised 0.00% and 1.27% of the Green Century Balanced Fund and the Green Century Equity Fund, respectively. Other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios of the Green Century Funds as of March 31, 2015. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
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