Fast food chains failing in antibiotics policies
Survey finds only 5 of 25 restaurant chains earn passing grades for antibiotics policies and sourcing practices.

WASHINGTON – Twenty of the nation’s 25 largest fast-food and fast-casual restaurant chains received an “F” for their antibiotics policies and sourcing practices in a new report and scorecard released by several consumer, health and environmental groups. Subway, Wendy’s and Burger King were among the restaurant chains found to be failing when it comes to providing meat produced without routine antibiotics.

The five chains that earned passing grades in the survey were Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

The report, “Chain reaction: How top restaurants rate on reducing use of antibiotics in their meat supply,” comes amid mounting pressure on restaurant chains to eliminate antibiotics in meat.

“Overusing antibiotics in meat production helps to create drug-resistant superbugs — our nation’s largest chain restaurants can be part of the problem, or part of the solution,” said David Wallinga, M.D., senior health officer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Restaurants billing themselves as a ‘healthier’ option, like Subway, have a particular responsibility to live up to that image by reducing antibiotics. Consumer demand for meat raised without routine antibiotics is transforming the marketplace. The companies continuing with business-as-usual will be left behind.”

The survey found that Panera, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s all have adopted publicly available policies that either limit the use of medically important antibiotics or prohibit any antibiotic use in the production of the meat they serve.

While each of the companies received a top score having “good” policy content, the survey said they varied in terms of other points awarded based on whether that policy applied to all the meats that company serves, as well as on the current availability of meat and/or poultry produced without routine antibiotics. For example, McDonald’s received fewer points because routine use of antibiotics is still allowed for “disease prevention” in the production of its pork and beef and because the company is not reporting publicly on the current percentage of poultry served that is raised without routine antibiotics.

The survey indicated that only Chipotle, Panera, Chick-fil-A and Dunkin’ Donuts have antibiotics use policies that apply to all the meat they serve.

“Although Dunkin’ Donuts has adopted a good antibiotics use policy, it has not made public a timetable for when suppliers must meet company requirements, and it is unclear how much, if any, meat served in its restaurants meets policy specifications,” the survey said.

Only Panera and Chipotle, which received “A” grades, said they offer an array of meat options produced without the routine use of antibiotics, including pork and beef. Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A (“B” grade) has committed to serve 100 percent no-antibiotics chicken by 2019 and is currently at about 20 percent.
McDonald’s (“C” grade) earlier this year announced that within two years it would only serve chicken without use of medically-important antibiotics in its domestic restaurants, while Dunkin’ Donuts (“C” grade) has a policy covering all meats but has no reported timeline for implementation.

The survey determined that most restaurants are keeping consumers in the dark about their meat sourcing policies, and many of the restaurant chains were unresponsive to survey requests for information. Sixteen of the 25 restaurants surveyed fail to provide customers with basic information on their web sites about their policies regarding the use of antibiotics and other drugs in the meat they purchase.

The 20 restaurant chains who received a failing grade were: Applebee’s, Arby’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Dairy Queen, Denny’s, Domino’s Pizza, IHOP, Jack in the Box, KFC, Little Caesars, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s.

The scorecard was put together by Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Consumers Union, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, Keep Antibiotics Working and the Center for Food Safety.