Farm Forward has found a variety of drugs, including an antibiotic, in meat certified as having “no antibiotics, ever” taken from products purchased from Whole Foods store shelves. The drugs, including fenbendazole, clopidol, and monensin, are used widely in conventional animal agriculture. The use of monensin is prohibited within the USDA Organic program and by Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP’s) Animal Welfare Certified™ program, which certifies all meat sold in Whole Foods stores.
“Sophisticated testing can reveal the truth about prohibited drugs fed to animals on factory farms, but these tests cannot reveal the extent to which these animals have suffered,” said Farm Forward executive director Andrew deCoriolis. “Whole Foods and GAP say that their products are humane and hope we’ll take their word for it; our test results should give consumers pause.”
Whole Foods relies on GAP’s Animal Welfare Certified™ program, one of the largest animal welfare certifications in the world, to ensure that the meat sold in its 511 stores is “humane” and contains “no antibiotics, ever.” GAP’s Executive Director is an employee of Whole Foods and, alarmingly, one of the products that tested positive for Clopidol, a drug prohibited by USDA Organic but allowed by GAP, was produced by a company whose CEO is a member of GAP’s board of directors, raising questions about GAP’s motivations for permitting specific drugs within its program. Clopidol is commonly used to treat parasitic infections found primarily on industrial farms.
Farm Forward served on GAP’s board of directors for 12 years but resigned in 2020 over concerns that the certifier was failing to live up to its promises to shoppers. GAP’s inability to enforce its standards was only one among several concerns. Another was its complicity in humanewashing: GAP and Whole Foods use confusing labels and images of animals on bucolic pastures that, a recent Farm Forward survey shows, trick customers into believing products may be better than they truly are. In reality, factory farmed products dominate Whole Foods’ supply chain despite charging customers up to 40 percent more for Animal Welfare Certified™ products.
Antibiotics and other drugs are used widely on factory farms to keep animals alive in cruel and filthy conditions that may otherwise kill them. Farm Forward’s findings should raise serious doubts in the minds of consumers about Whole Foods’ and GAP’s ability to prevent animals from suffering on factory farms and to keep products with drug residues from ending up on store shelves.
“Factory farms use antibiotics and other drugs extensively to ‘manage’ infectious diseases and parasites in crowded conditions,” said Dr. Jim Keen, a veterinary infectious disease epidemiologist with 30 years of research and field experience. “The conditions under which animals are raised in factory farms make them easy breeding grounds for antimicrobial resistance and even future pandemics.”
The testing was conducted by two independent, accredited laboratories using industry standard mass spectrometry, which is capable of identifying compounds at low levels.
End Factory Farming
Demanding that retailers and third-party certifications test for drugs in products labeled “all natural” and “no antibiotics, ever” won’t eliminate the need for these drugs on factory farms. It’s time for GAP’s Animal Welfare Certified program and Whole Foods to commit to stop selling factory farmed products all together. Until they stop selling factory farmed products, the best way for consumers to avoid unwanted drugs in their food is to avoid animal products whenever possible. Sign our petition to tell Whole Foods to take factory farmed products off their shelves.