Many restaurant chains fail on beef antibiotic practices, report finds

A report by consumer interest groups has given many top restaurant chains failing grades for their policies on antibiotics in their beef, which it says contributes to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.

Burger King, Olive Garden and Domino’s Pizza, among others, earned F’s for not having any public policy to avoid acquiring beef that has been routinely treated with antibiotics, the report says.

The report was released Thursday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, Consumer Reports, the Center for Food Safety and other nonprofit groups. It says that restaurants, especially burger chains, should get beef from producers who use antibiotics responsibly in order to help address the “global health crisis” of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“For the most part, beef producers are lagging seriously behind when it comes to restricting routine antibiotic use in their production, and that’s a problem for public health,” said Matt Wellington, the group’s antibiotics campaign director.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than 2 million people and kill 23,000 in the U.S. each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics in people, plants and animals has contributed to the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria. Cattle accounted for 42% of all medically important antibiotic sales in the U.S. livestock industry in 2017, the consumer interest report says.

“Fast-food companies purchase a lot of meat, and they have the ability to use that market power to push beef producers away from overusing life-saving medicines,” Mr. Wellington said.

Other restaurants that received a failing grade: Sonic, Jack in the Box, Panda Express, Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Arby’s, Chili’s, IHOP and Applebee’s.

Dine Brands, the parent company of IHOP and Applebee’s, said the timing of the report’s questionnaire precluded it from reporting about antibiotics and its meat supply.

“Applebee’s and IHOP are fully committed to quality ingredients, sustainable sourcing and animal welfare. In 2018, we made significant strides in reducing the routine use of medically important antibiotics in both poultry and pork and began work to address our beef supply in 2019 and are completing our supplier survey to quantify these advances,” a Dine Brands spokesperson told The Washington Times.

In response to its F grade, Domino’s said it should be up to the producers to decide how to raise their animals.

“We believe in letting farmers and ranchers (with the help of veterinarians) raise their animals,” said Tim McIntyre, Domino’s executive vice president of communications. “We do not believe in nor endorse the use of antibiotics in disease prevention, nor to promote growth, but do believe in their use in treating a sick animal. We do have a number of internal policies that we don’t currently post publicly, nor do we engage in unsolicited surveys.”

Wendy’s and Taco Bell both received D’s, while McDonald’s and Subway earned C’s because of their new commitments for responsible antibiotic use.

McDonald’s announced in December a policy that aligns with World Health Organization guidelines and called for an end to routine use of antibiotics for almost all of its global beef supply. Its announcement bumped the fast food chain from an F grade from last year.

Subway received its average grade for its 2015 pledge to serve only beef raised without antibiotics in the U.S. by 2025.

Both Panera Bread and Chipotle earned A’s for serving beef from producers who practice responsible antibiotic use.

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