McDonald’s has announced it will bar the routine use of antibiotics on healthy animals by its beef and pork suppliers — a move that public health officials are applauding.
The chain began limiting antibiotics in its chicken in the U.S. in August 2016, banning the use of medically important antibiotics (aka valuable antibiotics that are used in human medicine) unless an animal’s illness requires them, according to The Chicago Tribune. (The chain still allows suppliers to raise chickens using an antibiotic called ionophores, which is not used to treat humans.)
McDonald’s has said in the past that eliminating the use of antibiotics in pork and beef is more challenging than chicken because of the number of suppliers and the animals’ longer lifespans. Nevertheless, it hopes to have a timeline soon for reducing antibiotic-treated beef in 10 countries, which makes up 85 percent of the company’s supply chain.
Additionally, Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Europe will join the American McDonald’s in serving antibiotic-free chicken by 2018, with Australia and Russia joining by 2019. The chain intends to make antibiotic-free chicken a global standard by 2027, though it hopes to meet that goal sooner.
Public health officials are hoping that this strong stance by the world’s largest burger chain will start a ripple effect across the globe.
“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria don’t observe national boundaries,” said Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, in a statement. “We commend McDonald’s for setting these goals and urge all fast-food chains to use their market clout to protect public health before it’s too late.”
The biggest concern is that antibiotic-treated meat spreads antibiotic-resistant pathogens, or “superbugs,” from farm to kitchens through the uncooked meat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million Americans become sick and 23,000 die each year due to antibiotic-resistant infections.
Approximately 80 percent of medically vital antibiotics that are used for humans are being sold to raise livestock, according to Consumers Union, for the purpose of encouraging quicker growth in animals and treating or preventing diseases that occur in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions.
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What Do YOU Think?
Do you applaud McDonald’s decision? Do you think its mandates are strict enough since the company would still be allowing antibiotics in cases of illness? What else should food chains be doing to ensure public health? Tell us in the comments!