McDonald’s told to set date to cut antibiotics in beef, pork

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Is it time for the iconic Big Mac to go antibiotic free forever?
Is it time for the iconic Big Mac to go antibiotic free forever?

Related tags Antibiotic resistance Beef Pork

An advocacy group has urged McDonald’s to set a “concrete timeline” for phasing out antibiotics in its beef and pork, amid concerns that routine overuse creates life-threatening, drug-resistant superbugs.

A petition by US PIRG Education Fund, which has already gained 10,000 signatures, has called on McDonald’s to clarify its “vague​” strategy on removing antibiotics from its beef and pork supply chains.

Last year, McDonald’s said its operations in Brazil, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea and the US would only source chickens raised without antibiotics​ deemed critical for human health by 2018. Australia and Russia would follow a year later, with all remaining restaurants to adopt the policy by 2027. But no timeline was set for beef or pork.

Can the Big Mac make the difference?

Protecting antibiotics requires action, not reaction. If we don’t act now to preserve the effectiveness of these medicines, we’ll face a world in which common infections once again kill,​” said Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director at US PIRG Education Fund.

The Big Mac can make a big dent in stopping the misuse of antibiotics in our food system.​”

McDonald’s​ is the biggest buyer of beef in the US. And the advocacy group believes a domino effect could be sparked by the fast food giant setting out a clear timeline for removing antibiotics in its beef and pork supply chains, just as it has already done for chicken.

US PIRG Education Fund’s call to tackle antibiotic use is part of a broad campaign to pressure the world’s biggest food companies​ to phase out use of medically important antibiotics.

These calls come as the health sector warned that on-farm antibiotic overuse was driving the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, which modern medicine cannot fight. If antibiotic resistance is ignored, 300 million deaths are likely​, according to Belgium’s former prime minister Mark Eyskens.

We are seeing an increasing number of patients with multi-drug resistant infections that are difficult to treat due to limited antibiotic options,​” said Dr Afrah Sait, infectious diseases fellow at Tufts Medical Center.

To prevent bacteria from becoming resistant and ensure our antibiotics remain effective for patients who need them, it is critical for all of us to carefully consider when and how antibiotics are used and employ them only when absolutely necessary for saving lives.​”

McDonald’s could not be reached to comment at the time of writing.

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