Mc­Don­ald’s row re­veals overuse of an­tibi­otics


For many Chi­nese con­sumers, Mc­Don­ald’s Corp’s lat­est pol­icy on the use of an­tibi­otics in its food prod­ucts is an ex­am­ple of dou­ble stan­dard in food safety. The multi­na­tional fast food chain an­nounced last week that in the United States it had switched to us­ing chick­ens raised with­out an­tibi­otics, ful­fill­ing a pledge it made in­March 2015, many months ahead of sched­ule. Yet it has re­frained from promis­ing that it would do the same in its more than 2,000 res­tau­rants in China, its third-largest mar­ket after the US and Ja­pan, and one of the fastest-grow­ing in the world.

This has sparked anger in China, with many peo­ple point­ing ac­cus­ing fin­gers at the fast food giant for adopt­ing what they per­ceive to be a dis­crim­i­na­tive pol­icy.

While the bit­ter­ness they feel is un­der­stand­able, legal­lyMcDon­ald’s is do­ing noth­ing wrong.

There is no lawin China that bans the use of an­tibi­otics in food in­gre­di­ents. Mc­Don­ald’s, as it claims, is op­er­at­ing in China in ac­cor­dance with the rel­e­vant laws and reg­u­la­tions.

And peo­ple should re­al­ize that China is the largest user of an­tibi­otics, both in its med­i­cal sys­tem and food in­dus­try.

Re­search by a Guangzhou unit of the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences re­veals that the coun­try used 162,000 tons of an­tibi­otics in 2013, half the amount used glob­ally.

And of the an­tibi­otics used in China, more than half were given to an­i­mals, with the rest used by hu­mans.

Sci­en­tists es­ti­mate that the per capita in­take of an­tibi­otics in China is nearly 130 grams a year, or 10 times that in the US.

The overuse of an­tibi­otics, in­clud­ing an­timi­cro­bial use in food an­i­mals, has prompted theWorldHealth Or­ga­ni­za­tion to warn that the world is mov­ing to­ward an era in which many in­fec­tions will no longer be treat­able with an­tibi­otics.

But asMcDon­ald’s notes in its state­ment, a fewsen­si­ble changes can main­tain their im­por­tant ben­e­fits.

Of course, Mc­Don­ald’s could have done a bet­ter PR job by not seem­ing to limit its de­ci­sion to the US and in­di­cat­ing that it would also look to re­duce the use of an­tibi­otics in its sup­ply in China.

But for it to do that, it is nec­es­sary for China to clean up its own back­yard by draft­ing food safety laws that can bet­ter reg­u­late and min­i­mize an­tibi­otic use to safe­guard the health of its cit­i­zens.

After all, the right to healthy food is not be­stowed, but earned.

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