McDonalds: Help Save Antibiotics, One Burger at a Time!

Pamela Clough

McDonald’s has named a new CEO, Steve Easterbrook. Along with investors and competitors, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group is anxiously awaiting what sort of changes he will make at the world’s biggest burger joint.

We’re rooting for him to make one significant shakeup to the menu: providing Big Macs, Chicken Nuggets and other meat products that are not raised with the routine use of antibiotics.

Why does this matter?

Antibiotics play a critical role in modern medicine. However, they are losing their effectiveness. Medical experts warn that if we don’t stop the overuse of antibiotics they could stop working — with potentially grave consequences for public health.

Despite this threat, over 70 percent of antibiotics used in the United States are sold for use in animal agriculture. This practice is used to promote growth and prevent disease in crowded conditions, but it also facilitates the spread of resistance in bacterial populations. These superbugs can move from farms to human populations through food, air, water, soil and human contact.  Each year in the U.S. alone, at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 people die each year as a result of these infections.

That’s why U.S. PIRG is calling on McDonald’s to stop selling meat that has been raised with the routine use of antibiotics. McDonald’s is one of the world’s largest fast food chains in the world. Other restaurants, such as Panera, Chipotle, and Shake Shack, have made commitments to buy meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics or have gone antibiotic-free. If a company the size of McDonald’s makes this commitment, it would be the equivalent of banning antibiotics in meat production in a small country and could change the paradigm by making antibiotic-free meat more affordable and accessible to everyone.

A decade ago McDonald’s called on their suppliers to reduce the amount of antibiotics fed to their animals, but their requirements had large loopholes and it’s unclear if they’ve had a significant impact. Given the breadth of this public health issue, it’s time for McDonald’s to do its part to end the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms.

In one of his first actions as CEO, Mr. Easterbrook should ensure that the global leader in selling hamburgers steps up to become a global leader in stopping the overuse of antibiotics.

Please ask McDonald’s to help stop the overuse of antibiotics by signing up for U.S. PIRG’s Thunderclap!