• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Tips to avoid antibiotic-resistant superbugs

June 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Most assume antibiotics are prescribed to people, but an estimated 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to animals to help them grow faster and to prevent disease in unsanitary conditions. But Consumer Reports believes this may be contributing to the rise of superbugs.

If you get sick, you could be in trouble.

"It may be very difficult to find an antibiotic that will help you get well. It may even be impossible," said Jean Halloran of Consumer Reports.

The problem is widespread. When Consumer Reports last tested chicken, two-thirds of the samples had harmful bacteria, and more than half of these bugs were resistant to antibiotics.

You can find meat that's been raised without antibiotics at stores like Whole Foods. But at other stores, it can be much harder to figure out what you're getting.

"We found a few labels that are misleading and not even approved by the government," Halloran said.

For example, labels that say "Antibiotic Free" and "Natural" are government approved, but it has nothing to do with antibiotics.

More helpful labels are ones like "No Antibiotics Administered" and "No Antibiotics Ever." But even better are labels that also say "USDA Process Verified."

"This means the government has gone out and checked up on the processor to make sure they're doing what they claim," Halloran said.

"Organic" is another sure bet for shoppers. All organic meat is raised without antibiotics.

Looking for these labels is the best way to ensure that the meat you're buying has no antibiotics.

Last year, there were studies from both Denmark and Canada that found when antibiotics were not administered to animals, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria decreased in humans.