U.S. fast food giant McDonald's announced Wednesday that it will gradually stop using chicken raised with antibiotics vital to fighting human infections.
In addition, McDonald's U.S. restaurants are also planning to offer a new menu that includes jugs of low-fat milk from cows that are not treated with growth hormone.
Mike Andres, McDonalds’s U.S. President said in a statement that the move will help the fast food giant deliver better on customers’ expectations of eating healthy.
Many scientists are concerned that the overuse of antibiotics in poultry could eventually render the drug ineffective for humans in fighting disease. It begins in the hatchery when sometimes chicks are injected with antibiotics when still inside the shell.
Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald's North American supply chain said that the company is listening to the customers and is working with its domestic chicken suppliers to make the transition.
The veterinary use of antibiotics is termed legal. However, as the number of infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria growing at an alarming rate, health experts and consumer advocates have condemned the practice of routinely feeding antibiotics to chickens, cattle and pigs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say when an antibiotic is administered, the weaker bacteria gets killed and enables the strongest to survive and multiply as more and more bacteria and pathogens are showing resistance to such drugs. Continuous use of low-dose antibiotics can aggravate that effect.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 2 million Americans fall sick each year because of antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 die from them with up to$20 billion in direct healthcare costs.
In the 1940s, poultry producers started using antibiotics as it was discovered that streptomycin, penicillin and chlortetracycline helped in controlling outbreaks of disease in chickens. The drugs also offered an additional benefit, they kept the chicken’s digestive tracts in perfect healthy state and they were also able to gain weight without eating more food.
Gross said McDonald's expects its suppliers to treat any ill animals with antibiotics when prescribed. However, the food giant will not buy those treated chickens, she said. The poultry industry's lobby takes issue with the concerns of the health advocates and government, saying there is no conclusive evidence that the use of drugs in animals has any impact on human resistance to these drugs.