Environmental Defense Commends McDonald's New Policy On Antibiotics

On June 19th, Environmental Defense commended McDonald's, one of the largest meat purchasers in the U.S. quick service restaurant industry, for adopting a global policy to help reduce the use of antibiotics in food animal production.

"By working together, McDonald's and Environmental Defense have leveraged the company's purchasing power to help reverse the trend of antibiotics overuse in animal agriculture," said Gwen Ruta, program director, Environmental Defense. "McDonald's new policy demonstrates that reducing antibiotic use is both feasible and affordable. Now Environmental Defense calls on other purchasers of pork, beef and poultry to adopt similar policies and send a strong message to meat producers that the use of antibiotics must be curbed."

The policy, which was developed in consultation with Environmental Defense, prohibits direct suppliers from using medically important antibiotics as growth promoters in food animals after 2004. 70% of McDonald's global poultry supply comes from direct relationship suppliers, suppliers who directly control the stages of production where antibiotics are used and who have facilities dedicated to producing products primarily for McDonald's. McDonald's beef and pork suppliers fall into the category of indirect.

The policy also promotes further reductions in antibiotics use by creating a purchasing preference for companies that work to minimize antibiotic use and establishes guidelines for the appropriate use of antibiotics by meat producers. McDonald's policy is unique because direct suppliers will be expected to submit an annual self-certification, testifying that they are complying with the policy. Complying suppliers will also be expected to maintain records of antibiotic use.

"McDonald's announcement is good public health news. Having a company like McDonald's recognize the problem helps point the way toward sensible national policies to end inappropriate antibiotic use in animal agriculture," said Becky Goldburg, Ph.D., senior scientist, Environmental Defense. "Antibiotics are life-saving miracle drugs, but overuse threatens their effectiveness. It's time for more companies to help protect American public health by taking action on antibiotics overuse."

By one recent estimate, more than 70% of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are fed to healthy farm animals. Based on the growing body of evidence, the American Medical Association and more than 275 other groups have called for an end to the routine use of medically important antibiotics in healthy food animals.

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