No one wants to buy beef that harms their family or the environment, but companies often try to keep it under wraps or get around the issue when it comes to what’s in their beef. Case in point, many fast food restaurants have pledged to reduce the use of antibiotics at their source. Some, in fact, make no progress in delivering on the promise and, in fact, still have links with suppliers who have some questionable practices.
A recent investigation by Watchman It revealed that McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s have ties to farms and meatpacking companies that use dangerous antibiotics. Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Watchman It obtained unpublished government records that linked the three chains to beef suppliers still using antibiotics deemed “critical high priority” to human health, or HP-CIAs.
Related: 10 Burger Chains With The Best Beef In America
The World Health Organization has called for stopping the use of these types of antibiotics in food sources because they are considered necessary to save human life, and their use in animal food can make bacteria resistant to these antibiotics, endangering human life. US Senator Cory Booker even went so far as to describe the use of these antibiotics by some companies as a ‘mindless overuse’ and described this use as a major contributor to this deadly threat to public health, built on profit maximization over human health.
And he is not wrong about the amount of use. According to the investigation, 10 of the largest meatpackers had evidence of HP-CIAs, and some used as many as seven. JBS, which sells to Wendy’s and Taco Bell, is found at number seven. Cargill, the company that sells to McDonald’s, was found to have five. The study says there are other antibiotics found that do not count as HP-CIAs.
In terms of legality, the United States banned the use of antibiotics for developmental purposes in 2017, and the use of all antibiotics has dropped dramatically. However, there are no bans on antibiotics to treat or prevent disease in animals, and a veterinarian and public health consultant said in the article that the level companies use to prevent disease was essentially the same level they used for growth in the past.
The three companies pledged to reduce antibiotics in the meat supply. Taco Bell seeks to reduce by 25% by 2025. Wendy’s has pledged to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics by 2030. McDonald’s did not meet its initial goal and was forced to revise its plan for beef. For use of antibiotics by other fast food companies, check out: 12 Fast Food Chains That Use Lower Quality Beef.
Ultimately, there is no evidence that antibiotic-free meat is safer to consume and that some use of antibiotics is necessary to prevent disease and ensure the health of animals. JBS and Cargill have both had statements to this effect. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, antibiotic resistance is responsible for 35,000 deaths in the United States and 1.3 million worldwide, so their use is certainly a real public threat.