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Most Consumers Unaware of Antibiotic Residues in Meat

Nationwide Survey Reveals Most Americans Are Unaware They Consume Beef
And Poultry Raised on Antibiotics
Wednesday May 28, 12:00 pm ET
Once Aware of Reports of Health Risks, Concern Levels Spike as Does
Desire For A More Natural Alternative

AUSTIN, Texas, May 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- A nationwide survey
released today shows that when Americans -- regardless of age,
education, income level, and region -- shop for beef and poultry, almost
three-quarters (74 percent) are concerned about the presence of
antibiotics in meat production. This concern comes closely after top
basic concerns such as price, flavor and food safety. Yet, less than
one-half of Americans (48 percent) are aware that the beef and poultry
purchased at American supermarkets commonly are raised on feed that
contains antibiotics.

Only 27 percent of those surveyed are aware of the scientific dialogue
documenting problems caused by overuse of antibiotics in animals raised
for food. Once they learn of the reports(1) showing a connection between
the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed and its effect on humans, the
majority (59 percent) has a high desire to avoid these products and want
meat and poultry raised without such antibiotics.

The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted by Synovate (formerly
Market Facts) in spring 2003, and was commissioned by Whole Foods Market
(Nasdaq: WFMI - News), the nation's largest natural and organic foods
supermarket. The survey is representative of the general United States
adult population and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. The
results of the survey were further discussed today among industry
experts gathered in New York City at the "Natural Meat - Raised to Taste
Better" roundtable to address the current state of natural beef and
poultry, consumer concerns, antibiotic use and humane treatment of
animals.*

"Antibiotic medicines are losing effectiveness on humans due to their
increased use in animal feed," said Margaret Mellon, Ph.D, JD, director
of the food and environment program for the Union of Concerned
Scientists. "Animals raised in natural environments rarely require the
use of antibiotics. Americans who choose meat produced this way are
making conscious decisions to ensure that antibiotics will still be
working when they or their family need them."

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70 percent of all
antibiotics in the United States are now fed to animals raised for human
consumption in order to hasten the animals' growth or prevent illness
amid crowded, unsanitary conditions on factory farms.(2)

"The survey released today indicates Americans' strong desire to buy
'natural' meat. Yet, only one percent of the total beef and poultry
sales in the United States is considered 'natural,' meaning it comes
from animals raised without antibiotics throughout their lifecycle,"
said David Smith, vice president of marketing, Whole Foods Market. "The
major concern about antibiotic usage and the low awareness of its
prevalence in meat production indicates a significant demand for
antibiotic-free, natural meat once consumers become educated about the
issue."

The use of antibiotics in food animals has attracted the attention of
Congress. Senator Ted Kennedy (MA) and Representative Sherrod Brown (OH)
plan to re-introduce bills soon to phase out the routine use of
medically important antibiotics in poultry and livestock. Similar
legislation introduced in the last Congress was endorsed by over 170
groups, including the American Medical Association.

Defining "Natural Meat"

Beef and poultry are not currently required to bear labels that clearly
explain the presence of or use of antibiotics in feed -- even the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules for meat labeled "natural" do not
require all antibiotics be eliminated. According to the USDA, "natural"
may be used on the label when products contain "no artificial
ingredients and are no more than minimally processed."(3)

Whole Foods Market takes the definition of "natural" meat several steps
further in its national quality standards.

"Our definition of natural meat means that it was raised without any
antibiotics, added growth hormones, or animal byproducts in its feed,"
said Margaret Wittenberg, vice president, governmental and public
affairs, Whole Foods Market. "We want to educate consumers that
alternative meat products that have been raised without antibiotics or
added growth hormones are available. Whole Foods Market believes truly
natural meats taste better, and they help avoid the health risk of
developing antibiotic resistance. Our standards also include provisions
for the humane rearing and slaughter of animals."

Whole Foods Market only sells beef, chicken, pork, and lamb that adhere
to its strict definition of "natural."

Antibiotics and growth hormones are not necessary when animals are
raised in humane, free-roaming environments and grow at their normal
rate. In addition, under Whole Foods Market's strict animal welfare and
safety standards, no animal byproducts are allowed in feed. In today's
heightened awareness of food-borne illnesses such as the recent Canadian
case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) -- or Mad Cow Disease --
Whole Foods Market's standards include full traceability of each animal
from conception to consumption.

According to the Whole Foods Market survey, nearly eight in ten (78
percent) Americans believe it is important for standards to be in place
to more clearly define "natural" meat that include: meat and poultry
raised without antibiotics; meat raised without added growth hormones;
and animals raised and processed using humane methods. In addition,
almost three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans believe all meat and
poultry products should conform to a regulated standard reflecting this
definition.

Overall, four out of five Americans (81 percent) have either bought
beef and chicken that was not raised on feed with antibiotics or would
like to buy it.

Natural Meat: Raised to Taste Better?

"I believe there is a strong correlation between humane rearing and
taste. What goes into an animal affects the temperament and overall
well-being," said Mel Coleman, Jr., a fifth-generation Colorado cattle
rancher and chairman of Coleman Natural Meats. "Beef from cattle that
have been raised without antibiotics or growth hormones and in a well
managed environment tastes better . . . like beef used to taste."

Whole Foods Market's eight regional meat coordinators have developed
personal relationships with ranchers and farmers to ensure that strict
quality standards are enforced through third-party audits. The meat
counters in the company's 143 stores feature experienced teams ready to
provide knowledge and cutting expertise like neighborhood butchers of
yesterday. Each store provides extensive resources including educational
brochures and meat counters with custom cuts, cooking instructions, a
wide variety of unique choices and personal recommendations from
experienced team members.

About Whole Foods Market=AE:

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market is the world's
largest natural and organic foods supermarket. In fiscal year 2002, the
company had sales of $2.7 billion and currently has 143 stores in the
United States and Canada. The Whole Foods Market motto, "Whole Foods,
Whole People, Whole Planet"(TM) captures the company's mission to find
success in customer satisfaction and wellness, employee excellence and
happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support, and
environmental improvement. Whole Foods Market, Bread Circus=AE and
Harry's Farmers Market=AE are all registered trademarks owned by Whole
Foods Market IP, LP. Whole Foods Market employs more than 24,000 team
members and has been ranked for six consecutive years as one of the "Top
100 Companies to Work for" in America by Fortune magazine.

Survey Methodology:

Synovate, the new name for Market Facts, conducted the E-Nation Online
Survey commissioned by Whole Foods Market in March and May 2003. The
sample size of the nationally representative omnibus polls was 1,000
Americans aged 18 or over in each of the two waves, with a margin of
error +/- 3.1%. The sample consists of individuals selected from the
online segment of Synovate's Consumer Opinion Panel and is balanced to
be representative of the general population based upon region, gender,
age and household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

*Roundtable panel of experts:
Mel Coleman, Jr, Coleman Natural Beef
Laurie DeMerritt, The Hartman Group
Dun Gifford, Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust
Margaret Mellon, Union of Concerned Scientists
John Nicholson, Whole Foods Market Meat Coordinator
Michael Romano, Chef at Union Square Cafe in New York City
Scott Sechler, Bell Evans Poultry
Theo Weening, Whole Foods Market Meat Coordinator
Margaret Wittenberg, Vice President of Governmental and Public
Affairs
for Whole Foods Market and Author of "Good Food - The
Comprehensive Food
and Nutrition Resource"

Footnotes:

(1) In July 1998, the National Academy of Sciences, in a report
prepared at the request of the United States Department of Agriculture
and the Food and Drug Administration, concluded 'there is a link
between the use of antibiotics in food animals, the development of
bacterial resistance to these drugs, and human disease' (www.nas.edu );
In October 2001, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
published a guest editorial titled 'Antimicrobials in Animal Feed -- Time
to Stop' (nejm.org ); In June 2001, the American Medical Association
(AMA) adopted a resolution opposing nontherapeutic use of
antimicrobials in animal agriculture (www.ama-assn.org ).

(2) See www.ucsusa.org for more information.

(3) USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service


Contact:
Greer Bautz/Kristen Goldberg
(617) 227-2111, x8412/8353
gbautz@coneinc.com/kgoldberg@coneinc.com

Amy Hopfensperger/(512) 477-4455 x1028
amy.hopfensperger@wholefoods.com

 

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