Customers wait to order at a McDonald’s store in Australia. © Sardaka/Wikimedia
Fast-food chain McDonald’s has said it will begin phasing out antibiotics from its global chicken supply.
From January 2018, antibiotics categorised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘highest priority – critically important’ to human medicine will be eliminated from the chicken meat used in McDonald’s stores in Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the US.
According to Reuters, more than 70% of medically important antibiotics sold in America are used on livestock, potentially helping to fan the spread of antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ which kill tens of thousands of people every year.
Also by January 2018, McDonald’s will eliminate critically important antibiotics across all of Europe – though an exemption will be made for the antibiotic colistin, which is only used in humans as a last resort, typically to treat bacteria such as E. coli.
That, in turn, will be phased out by McDonald’s before the end of 2019, along with medically important antibiotics in chicken meat sold in Australia and Russia.
McDonald’s hopes to completely eradicate the use of medically important antibiotics in its chicken products by January 2027, although a spokesperson for the company said that “our goal is to have this policy implemented before this date”.
The company uses chicken meat in a number of its products, including wraps and salads, Chicken Selects, the McChicken Sandwich, the Chicken Legend, and McNuggets.
The commitment comes a year after the chain achieved its objective of eliminating important antibiotics from broiler chicken in all US restaurants.
The company said it was committed to “the responsible use of antibiotics”, helping to treat animals that become sick and require intervention while still minimalising the risk to humans.
Scientists have consistently warned against bacteria that develop a high resistance to the antibiotics used in human medicine, saying the so-called ‘superbugs’ could pose a significant and enduring threat to public health.
Announcing the policy, McDonald’s said: “We view this progress as significant milestones in our food journey, where we can achieve impactful change on a key issue, and we feel that these timelines give McDonald’s and suppliers the ability to set credible, achievable goals.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018