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McDonald’s new antibiotics policy raises bar for U.S. restaurant industry

Posted Mar. 4, 2015 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

Friends of the Earth welcomes steps on chicken, urges specific goals for other meat products

WASHINGTON, D.C. – McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) announced today that it will require its poultry suppliers to stop using medically important antibiotics, making it the largest restaurant chain in the country to adopt such a policy. The company joined other fast and casual restaurants like Panera Bread (NYSE: PNRA) and Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG), which have responded to growing concerns from consumers and the medical community about antibiotics misuse in the livestock industry by restricting the use of antibiotics in their supply chains.

After seven months of dialogue with the company on this issue, Friends of the Earth joins with allies to welcome McDonald’s plan.

“We are pleased to see McDonald’s take this important step in antibiotic restriction that helps fill the void left by the FDA’s failed policies,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth. “We hope McDonald’s announcement will continue a race to the top among restaurant chains, which we call on to quickly adopt plans to restrict antibiotic use in their supply chains. We also hope this plan will convince the livestock industry to stop its misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture; which has been a key contributor to antibiotic resistance.”

With antibiotics use in livestock on the rise, Friends of the Earth believes that the FDA’s voluntary proposal to curb drug use for growth promotion will do little to stop the routine overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Between 2009 and 2012, sales of antibiotics for use in livestock increased by 16 percent.

“While McDonald’s focus on poultry is a positive step forward, we look forward to a dramatic reduction of antibiotic use across the board, by focusing on improvements in their pork and beef suppliers’ management practices,” Hamerschlag said.

While the medical community has been working to address antibiotic overuse in human medicine, livestock producers in the U.S. have been slow to take action to curb the extensive overuse of antibiotics in that sector. Roughly 80 percent of all U.S. antimicrobials sold are used in livestock production.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report declaring antibiotic resistance to be among the top five health threats facing our nation, and highlighted the contribution of routine antibiotic use in food producing animals as a key contributor to the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Every year, two million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria resulting in at least 23,000 deaths.

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Expert contact: Kari Hamerschlag, (510) 207-7257, khamerschlag@foe.org
Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, kcolwell@foe.org 

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