The 3rd annual Chain Reaction report released by the Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth, and other nonprofits, assessed the antibiotic policies of the nation’s top 25 fast food and fast casual restaurant chains.
Of the 25 chains, eleven, including Dairy Queen, Olive Garden, IHOP, Domino's, Applebee’s, and Chili’s received an “F” rating. The Center for Food Safety says the "F" directly correlates to a reliance on factory farmed meat, where antibiotic use is common practice to enhance animal growth as well as treat or prevent diseases common in concentrated animal feeding operations.
“Unfortunately, 11 of the top 25 fast food chains, including several ‘fast casual’ restaurants like Olive Garden and Applebee’s, have taken no discernable action to reduce use of antibiotics in their supply chains,” the report notes.
Only two chains – early policy adopters Chipotle and Panera – received an A ranking. Subway, Chick-fil-A, KFC, and Taco Bell have recently upped their commitments, putting them in the B+ to B- level rating.
“Subway achieved its goal of sourcing 100% chicken raised without any antibiotics this year, and is working towards fulfilling its commitment on turkey by 2019. Taco Bell also completed its commitment to source chicken raised without medically important antibiotics this year.”
The report notes other chains including Burger King, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Jack in the Box have all recently made commitments toward reduced use of medically important antibiotics, but they still rank in the D category along with Pizza Hut and Papa John's.
“The nation’s fast food restaurant chains are in a unique position to address the antibiotic resistance crisis,” the report summary reads. “Fast food chains are huge buyers of meat and poultry. A quarter of all chicken produced in the United States is sold through fast food restaurants,” the groups note, pointing to McDonald’s as the nation’s largest buyer of beef. The chain, which recently announced plans to eliminate highest priority antibiotics across the globe, was ranked a C+.
“McDonald’s changed its chicken suppliers, and recently put out a strong vision to address misuse in pork and beef," notes Matthew Wellington, Antibiotics Program Director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. "By turning this vision into a reality, McDonald’s can pressure the meat industry to cut the rampant misuse of life-saving antibiotics that fuels these superbugs.”
Lena Brook, food policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement that in order to keep our life-saving antibiotics working when people need them, "the entire meat industry—beef and pork included—must start using them responsibly.”
“We must stop squandering antibiotics on animals that aren’t sick at a time when these vital medications are losing their ability to fight infections in people,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. “Fast food restaurants have tremendous market power and should use their leverage to help address this public health crisis by ending the misuse of antibiotics."
Approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are used on farm animals, perpetuating the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a global health crisis that kills upwards of 23,000 Americans every year.
Read the full report and scorecard here.
Related on Organic Authority
McDonald’s to Stop Selling Chicken Raised With Highest Priority Antibiotics Worldwide
'The Post-Antibiotic Era' Is Upon Us, Warns WHO
Antibiotics in Asian Livestock Industry Pose Global Health Crisis, Warns New Report