The fourth annual Chain Reaction report and scorecard gives a failing grade to 22 of 25 burger chain restaurants relating to the use of antibiotics in their beef supply.
Chain Reaction IV, released Wednesday, gives a D- to Wendy’s and Fs to 22 other chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Sonic, Five Guys and Carl’s Jr. for continuing to use beef raised with antibiotics in ways that make them less effective on humans. Only two As were earned by Shake Shack and BurgerFi.
The annual Chain Reaction report is based on surveys conducted by a coalition of five consumer groups: U.S. PIRG (public interest research group), Consumer Reports, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety and Food Animal Concerns Trust.
The consumer groups claim the overuse of antibiotics by livestock producers contributes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause life-threatening infections in humans.
“We need our life-saving medicines to work, and because fast food companies are some of the largest buyers of meat, they are uniquely positioned to address this public health crisis,” the report said.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drug-resistant superbugs kill about 23,000 people in the U.S. each year, and increase healthcare costs by $20 billion annually.
However, the CDC does not lay all that blame for antibiotic-resistance on the use of antibiotics in livestock production. The CDC says about 1 in 5 drug-resistant infections in humans comes from food animals, but that 1 in 3 prescriptions for humans by physicians are unnecessary.
The focus of this year’s Chain Reaction report on burgers is in response to the success consumer groups have had on changing production practices for poultry. Over the past decade, that pressure from consumer groups has led to most poultry companies raising flocks without the routine use of antibiotics.
The beef and pork industries have stopped using antibiotics as growth promotants, but resist further limits.
“The beef industry promotes the judicious use of antibiotics to keep potential risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria extremely low,” the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) says. “In addition, the beef community has invested significantly in research and education programs like Beef Quality Assurance to maintain high standards of animal care and health.”
Chain Reaction authors noted they will focus on McDonald’s in their efforts to curtail antibiotic use in food animals. As America’s largest purchaser of beef, Chain Reaction authors say McDonald’s “should commit to sourcing beef from producers that use antibiotics under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian, and only to treat animals diagnosed with an illness or in limited circumstances to control a verified disease outbreak.”