Posted March 6, 2015
McDonald’s plans to require chicken suppliers to stop using antibiotics in human medicine within the next two years, according to an ABC News article available here. The New York Times also published an article available here, USA Today here, and Reuters here.
The company says their suppliers will still be able to use an ionophores antibiotic that keeps chickens healthy, but it isn’t used in humans. Later this year, McDonald’s also plans to stop selling milk from cows treated with a particular artificial growth hormone.
The decision by one of the largest buyers of chicken in the United States is likely to have a significant impact on other restaurants that serve chicken, according to The New York Times.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been expressing their concerns about antibiotic use in animal husbandry as more bacteria and pathogens have shown resistance to such drugs. In 2013, approximately two million Americans fell sick because of antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 die from those infections.
McDonald’s has been under increasing pressure from customers and activists to improve the quality of its food. Chipotle and Panera already serve chicken raised without antibiotics, according to USA Today.
“Our customers want food that they feel great about eating all the way from the farm to the restaurant,” said Mike Andres, U.S. president of McDonald’s, in a statement. “These moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations.”
Tyson, the largest U.S. meat processor, said they supported McDonald’s decision, and that their chicken operations have reduced the use of antibiotics that are effective in humans by more than 84 percent since 2011. The company expects to continue reductions, according to Reuters.
Two senators have also reintroduced legislation to prevent the use of antibiotics that are deemed high risk of abuse, according to an Ag Food and Law post available here.
For more information on antibiotic use in agriculture, an article from the Congressional Research Service is available here.