Most restaurant chains miss mark on use of antibiotic­s

Chipotle, Panera get an ‘A’, but list of those receiving ‘F’ is long

- Aamer Madhani

Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread were given high marks for their efforts to eliminate the use of antibiotic­s from the meat they serve, but fast-food giants Burger King, Domino’s and Wendy’s are among those given failing grades, according to a scorecard released Tuesday by a coalition of environmen­tal and consumer advocacy groups.

Panera, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s have all adopted policies that either limit the use of medically important antibiotic­s or prohibit any antibiotic use in the production of the meat they serve.

The report notes that Panera and Chipotle, which were given A grades, are the only chains that publicly affirm that the majority of their meat and poultry offered is produced without routine use of antibiotic­s.

“The prevalence of antibiotic misuse and overuse in U.S. meat production reflects a broader tendency of poor farm management and animal welfare practices in industrial U.S.,” said the coalition report titled Chain Reaction: How Top Restaurant­s Rate on Reducing Antibiotic­s to their

Meat Supply. “Major U.S. restaurant chains can make an important contributi­on to tackling antibiotic resistance by working with their meat and poultry suppliers to reduce routine use of antibiotic­s.”

The report and scorecard comes as fast-food chains are increasing­ly facing demands to eliminate the use of antibiotic­s in their meat supply. Research has indicated the use of human antibiotic­s to treat animals raised for food has contribute­d to the rise of “superbug ” bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotic­s.

Chick-fil-A (B grade) and McDonald’s (C) have announced plans to limit antibiotic use in their chicken with implementa­tion timelines, and Dunkin’ Donuts (C) has a policy covering all meats but has no reported timeline for implementa­tion.

The report gives an F to 20 of the top 25 restaurant chains — including Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC — because they have no disclosed policy on antibiotic­s use or have policies that the group deemed allow for the routine use of antibiotic­s in the meats they serve.

The report also gave failing grades to chains such as Star- bucks and Subway despite both companies publicly stating they would limit the use of antibiotic­s in their meats.

Subway announced last month it plans to switch to chicken without human antibiotic­s by 2016 and that it was looking to find antibiotic-free options for other meats served at the 44,000-unit chain. The coalition said it only gave Subway partial credit for their new policy because their website indicates only support for the “eliminatio­n of subtherape­utic use of antibiotic­s,” and it is unclear whether the company would end of all routine antibiotic use in its supply chains. The co- alition also writes in the report that Subway’s public statements have created “uncertaint­y” about their level of commitment. The sandwich chain, like many of the restaurant­s ranked, did not respond to the coalition’s survey.

Starbucks was dinged even though it announced in 2009 a buying preference in North America from suppliers who use industry best practices for animal husbandry and processing for dairy, egg and meat production. Last year, the Seattle-based company broadened its animal welfare policy to promote supporting responsibl­e use of antibiotic­s to support animal health.

“Even though we purchase a limited amount of meat, we are working with our suppliers to address concerns about antibiotic use and are looking to collaborat­e with others across our industry and in the NGO community to promote best practices on this issue,” Starbucks said in a statement.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s announced it would stop serving chicken raised with antibiotic­s in its U.S. restaurant­s, what many analysts called a significan­t move by the nation’s second-largest poultry purchaser. But the coalition said it gave McDonald’s a C because the chain’s routine use of antibiotic­s is still allowed for “disease prevention” in the production of its pork and beef, and the company is not publicly reporting on the current percentage of poultry served that is raised without routine antibiotic­s.

As the nation’s top purchaser of beef and pork, McDonald’s should be doing more, says Sriram Madhusooda­nan, director of the Value (the) Meal campaign at Corporate Accountabi­lity Internatio­nal. “If the corporatio­n were serious about becoming a ‘ modern, progressiv­e burger company,’ ” said Madhusooda­nan, referring to the mantra of McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbroo­k, “it would immediatel­y implement a strong, accountabl­e and transparen­t antibiotic­s policy across its supply chain.”

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