The Big Mac Can Make A Big Dent In Stopping Antibiotic Overuse
Matthew Wellington, U.S. PIRG Antibiotics Program Director
Most of us have had a hamburger or two under the golden arches.
But what many don’t know is that most beef in the U.S. is raised on the routine use of medically important antibiotics, a farming practice that’s reducing the effectiveness of our most foundational medicines.
A staggering 70 percent of human antibiotics in the U.S. are sold for use in livestock and poultry operations.
In many cases, industrial farms don’t use antibiotics just to treat sick animals — they use them as a preventative measure to keep animals from falling ill in crowded and unsanitary conditions, or to spur growth.
The World Health Organization recently warned this unnecessary practice is breeding antibiotic-resistant superbugs that can infect people with illnesses that don’t respond to conventional treatment.
We shouldn’t be raising food in ways that put tens of thousands of people’s lives at risk — that’s why we’re getting commitments from major restaurant chains to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.
We’ve made considerable progress over the past two years. We helped convince McDonald’s, Subway and KFC to take chicken raised on human antibiotics off the menu, and these commitments have sparked an industry-wide shift.
The sale and distribution of medically important antibiotics for food production in the U.S. dropped 14 percent in 2016, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which marks the first year to year decline in sales since recording began. And because of market-based action, we estimate that in the near future, close to half the chicken in this country will be raised without the routine use of medically important antibiotics.
We’re building on this success, and now we’re pushing companies to take action on beef and pork. We’re starting with McDonald’s, an American icon and the the country’s biggest beef buyer.
The stakes are high. Already, at least 23,000 people die every year from infections antibiotics can’t cure, and some experts predict these types of infections could kill more people by 2050 than cancer kills today.
Antibiotics — which treat everything from post-surgery infections to strep throat — were one of the greatest scientific advancements of the 20th century. When they were invented, we called them miracle drugs.
Now, our miracle drugs are at risk of losing their effectiveness, and action by major meat buyers like McDonald’s to curb antibiotic overuse could turn the tide, and preserve the foundation of modern medicine.
Add your voice to our call today: Tell McDonald’s to hold the antibiotics.