McDonald’s to phase out chicken with antibiotics

Food giant McDonald’s has said it will stop buying chicken raised with the routine use of antibiotics. The company says it will phase in the policy that it hopes will be fully in place within two years.

“We’re listening to our customers,” Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald’s North American supply chain, told reporters. She said the company is working with its domestic US chicken suppliers.

While the veterinary use of antibiotics is widespread, there are increasing concerns that routinely feeding antibiotics to chickens, cattle and pigs is adding to the problem of bacteria drug-resistance.

For how the practice came about and became to widespread, see How did antibiotics become part of the food chain?

Poultry producers began using antibiotics in the 1940s when it was discovered that chickens were able to gain more weight without eating more food when given the drugs regularly.

Gross said McDonald’s expects its suppliers will treat any animals that become ill, using antibiotics when prescribed. McDonald’s, however, will not buy those treated chickens, she said.

But the policy only applies to McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants and not its approximately 22,000 international outlets.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of the introduction of a bill to US Congress that will attempt to curb antibiotic use in agriculture. The Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act would build on FDA’s voluntary policy to eliminate antibiotic use for growth promotion.

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