Crying fowl: McDonald’s ditching antibiotic-stuffed chicken

Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

McDonald’s has announced it will stop buying chickens raised on human antibiotics within the next two years. The company will also start offering hormone-free milk and cheese. Nothing has yet been mentioned about beef products.

Battling declining sales and image problems, the changes were
announced Tuesday night at the “Turnaround Summit” with franchise
owners in Las Vegas, and represent the first major reform by the
new president and CEO Steve Easterbrook, previously in charge of
McDonalds’ operations in the UK and Europe.

Several major US restaurant franchises have already abandoned
antibiotic-treated meat.

Chick-fil-A, the largest restaurant seller of chicken in the US,
announced in February 2014 it would phase out antibiotic-raised
chicken over a period of five years. Chipotle and Panera already
serve antibiotic-free chicken. With over 14,000 restaurants
across the US, McDonald’s may turn the tide in the move away from
antibiotic-treated livestock.

In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration urged a change in the
practice, alarmed by the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial
strains. According to a CDC report from 2013, at least 23,000
Americans annually die from bacterial infections resistant to

READ MORE: Superbug time bomb: FDA vets only 10% of
antibiotics that farm animals share with humans

It really is welcome news for public health,” Gail
Hansen from the antibiotic resistance project with The Pew
Charitable Trusts, told the Wall Street Journal. “It will
have a ripple effect probably throughout the entire food

While discontinuing the drugs used to treat humans, McDonald’s
said it would allow the use of ionophores, antibiotics routinely
used by industrial farmers to increase feed efficiency. According
to Hansen, ionophores are not used in human medicine and not even
considered antibiotics in Europe.

Tyson Inc, the largest US meatpacker, welcomed the announcement
on Wednesday. Their spokesman said the company had reduced the
use of human antibiotics in chicken by 84 percent since 2011.

On Wednesday, McDonald’s also announced it would begin offering
milk products from cows that have not been treated with the
artificial growth hormone rBST. Though widely used in the US, the
hormone has been banned in Argentina, Australia, Canada, the
European Union, Israel, Japan and New Zealand.

With approximately 32,000 restaurants, McDonald’s is the world’s
second-largest fast-food chain, right after Subway.

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