McDonald's to ban antibiotics in beef supply chain

13 December 2018

McDonald’s is to ban the routine use of antibiotics in its beef supply chain, the company announced.

Its new antibiotic policy for beef is in response to concerns from public health experts that using antibiotics to promote growth and prevent illness in animals is leading to drug-resistant superbugs that can infect people.

McDonald’s is currently examining the extent to which antibiotics are being used by its beef suppliers in Britain and its other top 10 beef sourcing countries worldwide, which include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, and the US.

It has pledged that by the end of 2020 it will set targets to reduce the use of “medically important” antibiotics in these countries, which account for 85% of its global beef supply chain.

And from 2022 the company will report the progress against the antibiotic reduction targets.

The policy states: “Use of antibiotics defined by WHO as medically important antibiotics for human medicine are not permitted for the purpose of growth promotion in food-producing animals in McDonald’s supply chain.”

It adds: “Routine use of medically important antibiotics for prevention of disease is not permitted.”

In a statement announcing the new policy, McDonald’s said: “Reducing the overall use of medically important antibiotics in beef is complex and cannot be accomplished overnight.

“Additionally, there is limited antibiotic usage data available across the global beef industry. That is why, in collaboration with our suppliers and beef producers, we are taking a strategic and phased approach.”

The stance on antibiotic use is part of a wider response to the changing concerns of consumers.

Earlier this year McDonald’s UK supply chain director Connor McVeigh told SM that the focus from customers has shifted.

“Ten years ago, they would have been talking about speed of service, quality, cleanliness. Now, they are asking about where the food comes from, animal-welfare standards and environmental standards. People might be surprised that customers at McDonald’s are asking those questions, but we’ve listened and acted accordingly,” he said.

The move by McDonald’s to cut antibiotic use comes a year after one of its rivals, Wendy’s, announced steps to reduce the use of antibiotics in its beef supply.
Wendy’s now aims to source around 15% of its beef from producers that have pledged to reduce their use of tylosin (the one medically important antibiotic they routinely feed to cattle) by 20%.

Making the announcement, in December 2017, Wendy’s cited the “growing public health concern about antibiotic resistance” and said that it “could help by reducing or eliminating antibiotic use in our food supply chain”.

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