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MASSPIRG celebrates Subway victory

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

MASSPIRG celebrated a massive victory this week, as Subway pledged to remove antibiotics from the meats served within restaurants. The agreement, which begins with the phasing in of antibiotic free chicken and turkey within the coming year, is expected to be fully implemented in 2025.

The move follows a coordinated effort from USPIRG and its chapter organizations, including MASSPIRG, along with a number of other public health interest groups. The coalition had previously planned to deliver a number of petitions to local Subway restaurants, as well as the company’s headquarters in Milford, Connecticut.

Protests were promptly changed to celebration events, thanking Subway for its decision to lead the charge on antibiotic-free food. At one such event in Amherst town center, MASSPIRG staff held signs lauding the fast food chain’s move.

Shawna Upton, vice chair of MASSPIRG’s antibiotics campaign and a student at the University of Massachusetts, was excited about the organization’s win.

“We’re certainly at the point where we’re enjoying the win and focusing on giving credit where it’s due,” Upton said, “This is a huge step for the organization as, unlike the McDonald’s campaign, the restaurant has agreed to a total and permanent antibiotics ban.”

Upton was joined by campaign coordinator Julia Seremba, who echoed Upton’s enthusiasm.

“All the students and volunteers involved are certainly overjoyed at the victory,” said Seremba. “For a lot of those on the campaign, this is their first big win as part of MASSPIRG, and even for those who were here for the McDonald’s victory, the concrete victory is huge.”

The McDonald’s victory was only a two year agreement to remove antibiotics from just chicken, making this a significant step forward for the campaign, whose greater aim is to target public knowledge of antibiotics. Subway’s total commitment to removing all meats with antibiotics is a huge step in the organization’s campaign, bringing both visibility and legitimacy to the movement’s goals.

Both Upton and Seremba noted this as being particularly impactful on the campaign moving forward. They both noted that a full commitment on Subway was the first step in what they hoped would be a “chain reaction” that would result in improved public health knowledge and a commitment by other organizations to phase out antibiotic practices.

The future also looks bright for MASSPIRG and the greater antibiotics campaign. Seeking to continue their consistent momentum, the organization has a number of possible next steps which they are still working on planning. While no specifics were able to be given, both Seremba and Upton were clear that Subway was not an end goal but merely a stepping stone to bigger projects.

“It was a big win. A real solid and important victory, but it can’t be our only focus,” Seremba said, “With the momentum gained from this, we can really get the ball rolling in terms persuading other groups to do the same as Subway has.”

While there are no new projects for the antibiotics campaign, they still remain committed to their ultimate goals of public health education.

Daniel Mahoney can be reached at dpmahoney@umass.edu.

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