You could be putting your health at risk if you eat meat from animals raised with antibiotics, warns a new study from Consumer Reports.

More than 23,000 people in North America die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and a doctor says the routine use of antibiotics in healthy animals is contributing to the problem. 

“The overuse of antibiotics in farm animals along with the conditions that animals are raised creates an environment for resistance to develop and spread,” says Dr. Urvashi Rangan from Consumer Reports.

Resistant bacteria are turning up in the meat and seafood we eat. Consumer Reports tests over the past three years have found superbugs in 57 percent of the raw and uncooked samples of chicken inspected, 83 percent of the turkey and 14 percent of the beef and the shrimp. 

“The best meat and poultry practices ban the use of all antibiotics and other drugs in healthy animals for growth promotion and disease prevention,“ says Rangan.

But shopping for meat raised without antibiotics can be confusing. Take the “natural” label.

“It only means that the cut of meat does not contain artificial colors or additives and was minimally processed. It has nothing to do with whether antibiotics or other drugs were routinely used,” adds Rangan. 

Consumer Reports recommends looking for the organic label, which certifies the animal was raised without antibiotics. You can also look for labels with terms like “no antibiotics,” “no antibiotics ever,” or “never given antibiotics.”

McDonald’s, Subway and other major chains have recently announced plans to reduce or eliminate antibiotic use in the meat they serve. While those changes are a ways off, you can buy meat in a number of locations in Metro Vancouver from animals raised without antibiotics.

Read the full Consumer Reports investigation here.