Online Staff Report
CHICAGO — The state consumer group Illinois PIRG launched a national campaign Jan. 22 asking McDonald’s to stop the purchase of meat raised with antibiotics.
As one of the largest purchasers of beef, pork and chicken in the United States, such a commitment from McDonald’s would help tackle the growing public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.
“People are becoming increasingly aware of the growing public health crisis surrounding antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the role that factory farms play in overusing antibiotics,” said Dev Gowda, campaign coordinator of Illinois PIRG’s Stop Antibiotics Overuse Campaign. “If McDonald’s switched to antibiotic-free meat for Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets, and the rest of their menu, it would benefit everyone — not just McDonald’s consumers.”
At the campaign launch at antibiotic-free restaurant Sopraffina Marketcaffe, Illinois PIRG staff and volunteers distributed guides for consumers highlighting fast and casual food restaurants in Illinois that have made commitments to serve meat raised without antibiotics. For instance, Chick-fil-A has made a commitment to only purchase chicken raised without antibiotics within five years. Local chains, such as Hannah’s Bretzel, also only sell meat raised without antibiotics.
While McDonald’s instituted a policy in 2003 to address the use of antibiotics in their meat supply, the policy allows for continued use of antibiotics to prevent disease caused by unhealthy production practices and does not apply to all suppliers and meats sold by the restaurant.
“Consumers all over the country are demanding meat that’s raised more humanely and without the use of antibiotics,” said Dan Rosenthal, owner of Sopraffina Marketcaffes, Poag Mahone’s and Trattoria No. 10. “If McDonald’s were to make the same demand of its suppliers, it would be a game-changer, and one that would help preserve these vital drugs for our kids and grandkids. We’ve done it for all the meat we buy for our restaurants … it’ll take time, but McDonald’s can do it, too!”
Sarah Hidder, associate director of Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition, said, “The non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on factory farmed animals is a serious and growing threat to the health of both humans and the environment.”
DePaul University student Stephanie Wynn added: “McDonalds should hear what their customers want — meat raised without antibiotics. Consumers, especially Millennials, want to preserve these drugs for generations to come.”
Because of overuse, medical experts warn that antibiotics could stop working — with grave consequences for public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year at least 2 million Americans become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. Despite this threat to public health, many large factory farms routinely give antibiotics to healthy livestock to increase growth and prevent disease, often caused by unhealthy production practices. Up to 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are for use on livestock and poultry.
One of the world’s largest fast-food chains, McDonald’s sells more than 1 billion pounds of beef each year. If McDonald’s required its suppliers to stop raising meat with antibiotics, large volumes of antibiotics would no longer be overused. In addition, should a restaurant chain the size of McDonald’s make this commitment, it would send a strong signal to meat producers that this is the way of the future.
“Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition and its supporting members are working hard to combat this issue, and we encourage consumers to help in the fight by showing all food-service operations that you choose to eat meat raised without antibiotics,” added Hidder.
Gowda said, “It’s time for the global leader in selling hamburgers to step up and be a global leader in stopping the overuse of antibiotics.”
Illinois PIRG Education Fund conducts research and public education on behalf of consumers and the public interest. Learn more at www.illinoispirgedfund.org.
Posted Jan. 22, 2015