Contact: Lucia von Reusner, Green Century Capital Management, 617-482-0800, email@example.com
January 13, 2015: Citing the growing public health threat and consumers’ concerns about the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, or ‘superbugs,’ Green Century Capital Management has filed a shareholder proposal urging the major supermarket chain Kroger to stop selling meat produced with routine and non-targeted antibiotic use. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics on livestock to produce meat is a major driver of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which infect over two million people each year and are increasingly deadly.
“Food safety should be the top priority of any supermarket,” noted Lucia von Reusner, Shareholder Advocate for Green Century Capital Management, an environmentally responsible investment advisory firm that manages fossil fuel free mutual funds. “Selling meat contaminated with ‘superbugs’ poses a major risk to customer health, and is a major liability for Kroger and its shareholders.”
The spread of antibiotic resistant ‘superbug’ bacteria has become a major public health crisis in the U.S. and globally. When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, infections that are normally treated with antibiotics become more severe and even deadly. Last year, 23,000 people died from antibiotic resistant bacteria, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Kroger is one of the nation’s largest supermarket chains, selling meat under its private label brands including Heritage Farms. Eating food contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria is one way in which ‘superbugs’ can be transmitted from the 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.
Green Century filed a shareholder proposal urging Kroger to curb sales of meat produced using antibiotics, citing the public health risks, consumer concerns, and threats to the company’s reputation if the meat it sold were to infect a consumer with antibiotic resistant bacteria. For example, the majority of consumers surveyed are extremely or very concerned about issues related to antibiotic use in meat production, according to a 2012 report conducted by Consumer Reports.
A leading driver behind the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria is the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry to produce meat. Over 70% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are fed to animals, often for general use such as to promote faster growth or to prevent the spread of disease when animals are packed together in unsanitary factory farm conditions. Constantly administering low doses of antibiotics to animals enables bacteria to evolve to become resistant to those antibiotics. When these bacteria, such as E.coli or salmonella, infect people, medication is less effective and the illness harder to treat.
Several companies including Panera,* Chipotle,* and Chik-fil-A* have announced policies to phase out meat produced using antibiotics, and major meat producer Perdue Foods* has announced that it will phase out antibiotics in the production of its chicken meat, demonstrating that meat can be produced on a large scale without antibiotics.
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Green Century Capital Management is an investment advisory firm that manages the first family of diversified and responsible fossil fuel free mutual funds, the Green Century Equity Fund and the Green Century Balanced Fund. Founded in 1991 by a network of non-profit organizations, Green Century leverages the power of its investments to pressure companies to reduce carbon pollution, protect endangered species and reduce political spending, as well as engaging other investors around national energy and climate change policies, such as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
*As of December 31, 2014, Panera Bread Company comprised 1.13% and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund and the Green Century Equity Fund, respectively. Other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios as of December 31, 2014. 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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