Chain Reaction III

How Top Restaurants Rate On Reducing Use Of Antibiotics In Their Meat Supply

A report by Consumers Union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Food Animal Concerns Trust, and U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Matthew Wellington, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The Chain Reaction III Report and Scorecard ranks America’s 25 largest fast food and fast casual restaurants on their policies relating to routine antibiotic use in their meat supply chain. The overuse of antibiotics in factory farming contributes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that kill at least 23,000 Americans each year. We need our life-saving medicines to work, and because fast food companies are some of the largest buyers of meat, they are uniquely positioned to address this public health crisis.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health crisis. The fast food industry can help tackle the problem.

Use and misuse of antibiotics in livestock production is widespread, and it’s creating new breeds of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • The amount of medically important antibiotics sold for use in animals in the U.S. rose 26 percent between 2009 and 2015, but then decreased by 14 percent from 2015 to 2016, in part thanks to numerous commitments from major food companies to reduce the use of our foundational medicines in food production. The unnecessary use of life-saving antibiotics on farms is a major contributor to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can escape farms through air, water, soil, meat and even the people who work there.
  • Extensive testing in the Shandong Province in China found that 90 percent of poultry in slaughterhouses there tested positive for a gene capable of withstanding colistin – the antibiotic used as a last resort when all others fail.

Fourteen of the top 25 fast food and fast casual restaurants have taken some steps to limit use of antibiotics in some or all of their supply chains.

  • The Chain Reaction III Scorecard ranks the top 25 fast food and fast casual restaurants based on their meat and poultry antibiotic policies. Scores were based on the strength of the policy (i.e. eliminating the routine use of medically important antibiotics), the company’s implementation of that policy, and overall transparency.
  • During the past year, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, Jack in the Box, and Dunkin’ Donuts have adopted new and meaningful antibiotics use policies, joining the ranks of Chipotle, Panera, Subway, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and Papa Johns in earning passing grades on the scorecard.

While fast food companies are addressing antibiotic use in poultry, most companies have made few strides in reducing antibiotic use in pork and beef.

  • Fast food companies are some of the largest buyers of beef in the world, but many don’t have policies concerning antibiotic misuse in the beef they purchase.
  • Only Chipotle, Panera and Subway have policies restricting antibiotics use in all their meat.

Eleven fast food companies have made no discernable efforts to reduce antibiotics use in any of their meat or poultry.

  • Dairy Queen does not have any policies related to antibiotic use, while Sonic only restricts medically important antibiotics when they’re exclusively used for growth promotion.
  • Several companies did not respond to the survey and do not have meaningful antibiotics policies, including Applebee’s, Domino’s, Olive Garden, Chili’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Little Caesars, Arby’s, IHOP and Cracker Barrel.

The majority of fast food companies are making progress in limiting or eliminating antibiotic use in their meat and poultry. However, many have still not made firm commitments to implement change, or taken any discernible action to reduce antibiotic use whatsoever.

Take Action

Tell McDonald’s To Hold The Antibiotics

After McDonald’s announced it would only purchase chicken raised without human antibiotics, Subway and KFC followed suit. McDonald’s can shift the marketplace in favor of beef and pork raised without misusing our life-saving medicines, too. Call on McDonald’s to Hold The Antibiotics.
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