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McDonald's Urged to Be Leader and End Antibiotic Use in Meat

PHOTO: The U.S. Public Interest Research Group is calling on McDonald's to stop purchasing meat from animals raised using antibiotics. The fast food giant says it is updating its purchasing policies this year. Photo credit: Simon Miller/Flickr.
PHOTO: The U.S. Public Interest Research Group is calling on McDonald's to stop purchasing meat from animals raised using antibiotics. The fast food giant says it is updating its purchasing policies this year. Photo credit: Simon Miller/Flickr.
January 27, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The company known for its iconic "Golden Arches" is being asked to make its burgers, chicken nuggets and other menu items antibiotic-free.

It's estimated nearly 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in raising livestock and poultry. McDonald's sells more than one billion pounds of beef each year, and Pamela Clough, campaign coordinator with the watchdog U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says if the fast-food giant required its suppliers to stop raising meat with antibiotics, it would prompt sweeping changes in the industry.

"If they were to make this change, it would be the equivalent of banning antibiotics in meat production in a small country," sys Clough. "If they make this commitment, it could really change the paradigm of the market and make antibiotic-free meat more affordable and more accessible for everybody."

Some medical experts say the overuse of antibiotics is creating antibiotic-resistant infections that can become serious public health threats. McDonald's says it recognizes the importance of combating antibiotic resistance. An update to its policy on antibiotic use in food animals is due out this year.

Other restaurants, including Panera and Chipotle, say they already use only antibiotic-free meats, and the Chick-fil-A chain has made a commitment to only purchase chicken raised without antibiotics by 2020. In 2003, McDonald's implemented a policy about antibiotics, but Clough says it didn't go far enough.

"It only applied to some suppliers, and didn't require even these suppliers to only purchase meat raised without antibiotics," she says. "It had to do with antibiotics used for growth promotion versus disease prevention. In the end, we need stronger action."

The fast food giant announced last year it will start transitioning to sustainable beef by 2016, but Clough says it wasn't specific about the definition of "sustainable."

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL