The fast food giant has succumbed to consumer and shareholder pressure, unveiling a new plan to reduce routine use of antibiotics in its supply chain
McDonald’s has this week released its “global vision” for antibiotic stewardship in the animals it uses for food.
While the corporation has maintained a policy on antibiotic use in food animals since 2003, it says the updated policy was required in order to recognise the importance of evolving its policies alongside a growing body of scientific evidence.
McDonald’s says its aim is to help preserve antibiotic effectiveness in the future.
“As one of the world’s largest food companies, we will seize the opportunity to use its scale for good, to influence industry change on the issue of Responsible Use of Antibiotics,” it said in a statement.
“As a framework for antibiotic stewardship, the [updated policy] seeks animal production practices that reduce, and, where possible, eliminate the need for antibiotic therapies in food animals, by adopting existing best practices and/or new practices.
“With that said, we understand that animals, like people, get sick and require treatment. Treating sick animals is consistent with McDonald’s long-standing commitment to animal health and welfare and to improve the lives of animals in our supply chain. Engaging farmers, producers and veterinarians in the responsible use of antibiotics is key to our vision of preserving antibiotic effectiveness through ethical practices.”
Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth has praised McDonald’s for the move.
“In response to years of consumer and shareholder pressure to eliminate routine antibiotics use in its supply chain, today McDonald’s has taken an important step forward in the fight to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics in human medicine and improve conditions of farm animals,” says Kari Hamerschlag, Deputy Director of Food and Technology at Friends of the Earth.
“The company’s statement today sends a powerful signal to large meat and poultry producers that they must act swiftly to reform their practices or lose potential large buyers like McDonald’s. We urge other fast food chains to follow McDonald’s lead and get more serious about reducing the use of antibiotics in their supply chains.”
McDonald’s has outlined seven criteria to serve as goals for system suppliers:
- Antibiotics can only be used in conjunction with a veterinary-developed animal healthcare program;
- Source raw material (meat) from food animals (beef, chicken, pork, dairy cows and laying hens) that are not treated with Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (HPCIA).
- Antibiotics identified under WHO’s categorisation of High Priority Critically Important, Critically Important, Highly Important and Important for human medicine and currently approved for veterinary use, should not be used as first-line treatment, and only be used after testing of the diseased animal has shown other classes of antibiotics to be ineffective as determined by the attending veterinarian.
- Source raw material (meat) from food animals that are not treated with antibiotics used solely for growth promotion.
- Routine prevention use of antibiotics is not permitted.
- Utilise animal production practices that reduce, and where possible eliminate, the need for antibiotic therapies in food animals and adopt existing best practices and/or new practices that would result in subsequent reductions of antibiotic use.
- Benchmarking and measurement of antibiotic usage to track performance. Successful strategies resulting in antibiotic use reductions will be shared broadly within the McDonald’s system.
WHO List of Critically Important Antibiotics
Highest priority critically important antimicrobials (HPCIA)
- Cephalosporins (3rd,4th,5th and newer generation)
- Macrolides and ketolides
High priority critically important antimicrobials
- Carbapenems and other penems
- Penicillins (natural, aminopenicillins and antipseudomonal.)
- Phosphonic acid derivatives
- Drugs used solely to treat tuberculosis or other mycobacterial diseases
Highly important antimicrobials
- Cephalosporins (1st and 2nd generation) and cephamycins
- Penicillins (anti-staphylococcal)
- Steroid antibacterials
- Sulfonamides, dihydrofolate reductase inhibitors and combinations
- Cyclic polypeptides
- Nitrofurazones and Nitroimidazoles
Source: Critically Important Antimicrobials for Human Medicine – 5th rev. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017.