America’s Largest Fast Food Chains Earn Failing Grade for Antibiotic Use
A new report and scorecard released today by several consumer, health and environmental groups grades America’s 25 largest fast food and fast casual chains on their meat and poultry antibiotics policies, with all but five of them earning “F”s for allowing routine antibiotic use by their meat suppliers. The five chains earning passing grades include Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Photo credit: Friends of the Earth
Today’s report, Chain Reaction: How Top Restaurants Rate on Reducing Use of Antibiotics in Their Meat Supply, comes amid mounting pressure on restaurant chains, with a letter sent today from 109 organizations to the CEOs of the top 25 restaurant chains urging companies to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics in their meat supply. In addition there are several high profile campaigns urging Subway, the world’s largest restaurant chain, to adopt a clear policy restricting the routine use of antibiotics in its supply chain.
“From bacon cheeseburgers to chicken nuggets, most meat served by America's chain restaurants comes from animals raised in industrial-scale facilities, where they are routinely fed antibiotics to prevent disease that is easily spread in crowded, unsanitary, stressful conditions,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth. “It’s time for the U.S. restaurant industry to take leadership and address the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance by working with their meat and poultry suppliers to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics and improve overall conditions in U.S. meat production.”
“Overusing antibiotics in meat production helps to create drug-resistant superbugs—our nation’s largest chain restaurants can be part of the problem or part of the solution,” said David Wallinga, MD, senior health officer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Restaurants billing themselves as a ‘healthier’ option, like Subway, have a particular responsibility to live up to that image by reducing antibiotics. Consumer demand for meat raised without routine antibiotics is transforming the marketplace; the companies continuing with business-as-usual will be left behind.”
“U.S. restaurant chains must take responsibility for how the meat they sell is contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistance.” said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports. “The majority of meat served at Panera and Chipotle is produced without routine use of antibiotics and Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s have committed to limiting antibiotics use in their chicken. We are urging other major chains, such as Subway and Burger King, to take immediate action in their meat supply chain to address the urgent problem of antibiotic resistance.”
“The meat industry’s misuse and overuse of antibiotics reflects larger problems of poor animal welfare and farm management practices in U.S. meat production,” said Steven Roach, food safety program director at Food Animal Concerns Trust and analyst for Keep Antibiotics Working.
“Companies need to insist that producers reduce density and improve animal diets, sanitation and other management practices within their producers’ facilities, to reduce the likelihood of disease and the need for routine drug use. By doing so, these companies can play an important role in ensuring better animal welfare and addressing one of our nation’s more serious public health threats.”
Rebecca Spector, West Coast director at Center for Food Safety commented, “The restaurant industry needs to take action, but the market alone cannot solve the problem of antibiotic misuse in animal agriculture. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Congress must move quickly to adopt mandatory policies that prohibit use of medically important antibiotics for both growth promotion and disease prevention.”
Research for the Chain Reaction report including the survey of the top 25 chains, was compiled by a broad array of groups, including Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Keep Antibiotics Working and Center for Food Safety.
The report builds on rising concern that overuse of antibiotics in meat production contributes to the rise in antibiotic-resistant infections that claim at least 23,000 lives each year.
With Americans spending nearly half of their food budget on meals outside the home, this research provides consumers with important information to help them make better dining out choices. Sales of meat raised without antibiotics grew 25 percent from 2009 - 2012.
The following chains received an “F” on today’s scorecard, either for having no disclosed policy on antibiotic use in their meat and poultry supply chains or for having policies that fail to phase out continued, routine use of medically important antibiotics in the production of the meats they purchase and serve: Applebee’s, Arby’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Dairy Queen, Denny’s, Domino’s, IHOP, Jack in the Box, KFC, Little Caesars, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse Grill and Bar, Papa John’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s.
In addition to these findings on antibiotic policies, the report found that only two of the surveyed companies, Panera and Chipotle, report policies that restrict the use of other growth-promoting drugs, including hormones and beta agonists.
In response to a number of public campaigns, Subway, in late August updated its website to indicate that it “support(s) the elimination of sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics" and media outlets reported that Subway plans to “transition to chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine in 2016" and “eliminate the use of antibiotics in products across the menu.”
Subway, however, has yet to back those statements up by making a firm commitment to take this action or present a clear plan or timeline for doing so. For this reason, Subway only earned partial credit in the scorecard for good policy—and ultimately received an F. Efforts to clarify Subway's policy have been unsuccessful despite repeated attempts by the report’s authors to reach out via email and telephone.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.