McDonald’s sets out vision to reduce antibiotics

By Aaron McDonald

- Last updated on GMT

The policy will cover Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Europe by 2018
The policy will cover Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Europe by 2018

Related tags Antibiotics Medicine Mcdonald Beef Pork Poultry

Fast food super-giant McDonald’s has updated its vision on reducing the usage of routine antibiotics in its supply chain on an international level. 

The new strategy suggests the adoption of new policies and outlines the appropriate timelines for reducing, and eliminating, where possible, the use of antibiotics in all food animals.

Furthermore, it sets a global policy for exclusively sourcing broiler chickens that have been raised without the use of antibiotics defined by the World Health Organization as Highest Priority Critically Important for human medicine.

As well as in the US, the policy will be in effect in Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Europe by 2018, while it will be adopted in McDonald’s stores in Australia and Russia by 2019. The rest of its global restaurants will be taking up the policy by 2027.

The vision was first created in 2015, after McDonald’s established a team of experts from around the world, made up of veterinarians, physicians, academics, clinical pharmacologists, epidemiologists, ethicists, animal health and welfare experts, and other animal food production experts. The new strategy replaces this version.

To achieve its goals, McDonald’s said it supported the implementation of education, training and outreach programmes.

The following areas of focus will be prioritised:

1) To established principles and criteria for the Responsible Use of Antibiotics in Food Animals
2) Developing field projects to serve as Centres of Innovation for each species, to demonstrate the benefits of the Responsible Use of Antibiotics
3) Developing methods to verify the Responsible Use of Antibiotics and establish goals for measuring progress.

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth welcomed the progress taken by McDonald’s. Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and technology, said: “In response to years of consumer and shareholder pressure to eliminate routine antibiotics use in the supply chain, today McDonald’s has taken an important step forward in the fight to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics in human medicine and improve the conditions of farm animals.

By establishing a stronger framework for reducing the use of antibiotics important in human medicine in all food animals, the company has laid the basis for significant reductions in the use of antibiotics and in improvements in animal husbandry on the farms that produce its food.​”

Hamerschlag added that Friends of the Earth was looking forward to seeing concrete policies and timelines in the foreseeable future regarding the restaurant’s pork and beef supply. “The devil is always in the detail and we hope that McDonald’s new policy for beef will completely eliminate the use of all medically important antibiotics for anything other than the treatment of sick animals,​” he explained.

We note that McDonald’s new vision is in conflict with the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef’s lack of clear benchmarks around the reduction and elimination of antibiotics important in human medicine. As a major leader in that initiative, we urge the company to ensure that the Roundtable and its own US ‘sustainable beef’ initiative move swiftly to establish clear benchmarks for reduction and elimination of routine use of antibiotics in human medicine.​”

McDonald’s commitment sent a strong signal to large meat and poultry producers that they must act quickly to reform their practices, or potentially use large customers, said Friends of the Earth. “We urge other fast food chains to follow McDonald’s lead and get more serious about reducing the use of antibiotics in their supply chains, especially in their beef and pork supply.​”

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