SAN FRANCISCO – The parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons has committed to ending the use of all antibiotics important to human medicine in their chicken supply by the end of 2018, according to news reports today.
Today’s announcement from Restaurant Brands International marks the latest in a string of fast food company responses to consumer demand for chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics. With today’s news, 11 of the top 15 chains in the U.S. have now committed to some level of responsible antibiotics use for their chicken supplies. NRDC estimates that nearly half of the U.S. chicken industry is now either under an antibiotics stewardship commitment or is already using responsible practices, according to published statements and data from the WattPoultryUSA 2017 Survey.
NRDC and partner groups annually grade the top 25 fast food restaurants in the United States on their antibiotics use policies and practices. Last year, Burger King received in “F” in the Chain Reaction report. This year’s report is due out in the fall.
A statement follows from Lena Brook, Food Policy Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“We have officially passed the tipping point on antibiotics use in chicken served by the U.S. fast food industry. With this commitment, Burger King and Tim Hortons are helping to keep our lifesaving drugs working when sick people need them. The next frontier in the fight against the drug resistance epidemic is to curb antibiotics use in beef and pork—and that means extending these policies beyond nuggets to burgers, sausage patties and more.”
More than 70 percent of medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use on livestock and poultry. More than 96 percent of those drugs are routinely distributed en masse in feed or water—often to animals that are not sick to speed up growth and help animals survive crowded and unsanitary conditions on industrial farms.
This practice contributes to the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections in humans. Leading medical experts warn that we must stop overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and animal agriculture, or else the life-saving drugs we rely on to treat common infections and enable medical procedures could increasingly stop working.
Conservatively, at least 2 million Americans are already infected with antibiotic-resistant infections every year, and at least 23,000 die as a direct result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.organd follow us on Twitter @NRDC.