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Most Burger Chains Fail on Antibiotics Policy, Look to Improve

Oregon fast-food chain Burgerville received a positive mention for its use of antibiotic-free beef in a recent report. (OSPIRG)
Oregon fast-food chain Burgerville received a positive mention for its use of antibiotic-free beef in a recent report. (OSPIRG)
October 19, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Most of the country's major burger chains still rely on beef from cattle raised with antibiotics. That's according to the fourth-annual "Chain Reaction" report, which focused on beef production in this year's edition.

The report gives 22 out of 25 companies failing grades for their antibiotics policies. Charlie Fisher, director of Oregon State Public Interest Research Group or OSPIRG, says overuse of antibiotics has become a major health concern.

At least 23,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, according to the CDC. Fisher says routine use of these drugs can breed drug-resistant superbugs.

"The World Health Organization estimates that by 2050, if we don't do something about this problem, more people could die from superbugs than from cancer today,” says Fisher. “That's what they call the 'post-antibiotic world,' which is a very scary one that we're trying to avoid."

In the report, only two national burger chains – BurgerFi and Shake Shack – received 'A' grades. Oregon's Burgerville chain received an honorable mention for its antibiotic-free meat.

The report was compiled jointly by consumer and environmental groups, including the Center for Food Safety and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to the report, nearly 60 percent of consumers say they'd be willing to pay more for meat raised without antibiotics.

Fisher says McDonald's and other companies have already transitioned to using non-antibiotic chicken. He says McDonald's is committed to moving away from antibiotics in its beef, but has yet to set out a clear timeline.

"We're optimistic that if they continue to hear from their consumers, they'll do the right thing and so, that's why we're highlighting this,” says Fisher. “Because we think that if we can make sure that people hear about the problem and about the need for big fast-food chains like McDonald's to change their practices, then they'll communicate that to those companies."

Fisher believes federal action will be needed to fully address this issue. While the Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged antibiotic resistance is a major health threat, Fisher says the rules they've proposed to fight this problem lack teeth.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR