Fast-food giant McDonald’s announced Wednesday that, within two years, all of the chicken served at its 14,000 U.S. restaurants will come from farms which raised the birds without medically important antibiotics.
The move could help limit the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture which contributes to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bugs that sicken humans.
“Our customers want food that they feel great about eating — all the way from the farm to the restaurant — and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations,” said McDonald’s U.S President Mike Andres.
Supporters of the decision such as Paige Tomaselli, senior staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety, said that “by working with their poultry suppliers to reduce or eliminate antibiotics in the chickens raised for nuggets, salads, and sandwiches, McDonald’s is setting the bar for the entire fast food industry.”
“McDonald’s announcement creates momentum for industry to curb antibiotic overuse in food animals,” said Gail Hansen, senior officer of the antibiotic resistance project at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that the McDonald’s announcement “should inspire regulators to prohibit the overuse of medically important antibiotics in animal agriculture altogether.”
“The tide is shifting,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who, this week, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), reintroduced the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA). PARA would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw its approval of medically important antibiotics used for disease prevention or control that are at a high risk of abuse.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) who has introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) in the House of Representatives multiple times, said that this move by McDonald’s “is proof that when an enlightened public demands change, companies respond.”
The same demand needs to be directed at Congress and FDA, she said, adding that, “Until we have a true legal limitation on antibiotic use on the farm, we will still be at risk of frittering away one of the greatest medical advancements of the modern era.”
Jonathan Kaplan, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Food and Agriculture program, said that “hopefully, chicken is just the start – the Big Mac and McRib may be next.”
McDonald’s has also said that its suppliers will continue to use ionophores, which aren’t used in human medicine, and will still treat sick chickens with medically important antibiotics. However, the company stated that these birds will be taken out of the chain’s food supply.
McDonald’s is not the first company to move toward antibiotic-free poultry. Last year, fast-food chain Chick-fil-a announced plans to phase out chicken raised with antibiotics. Cargill followed with an announcement that it would stop using antibiotics for growth promotion in raising its turkeys. And Perdue and Tyson told consumers that they no longer use antibiotics in their chicken hatcheries.© Food Safety News