Burger King’s Weak Antibiotics Announcement Gives False Impression of Action

Chain’s Commitment Doesn’t Impact Most Drugs Used, While KFC Continues to Hold Out Altogether

OAKVILLE, Canada – Burger King will stop purchasing chicken from suppliers that use antibiotics “critically important” to human medicine for its U.S. stores in 2017 and Canadian stores in 2018, according to owner Restaurant Brands International Inc. The announcement, however, is misleading—the “critically important” pretense indicates a near meaningless change over business as usual.

A number of leading fast food industry companies like Subway, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell, have made commitments to end the routine use of medically important antibiotics in their chicken supplies during the last two years. NRDC has been a driving force behind these marketplace changes.

Burger King’s announcement falls far short of its competitors in terms of its scope and significance. According to the World Health Organization, the term “critically important’ only applies to three classes of antibiotics, two of which have already been phased out of U.S. chicken production for a number of years. And, unlike the commitments from McDonald’s or Subway, for example, Burger King does not address its presumed acceptance of chicken raised with other drugs that are important in human medicine.

Lagging even further behind the leaders than Burger King is KFC, the nation’s largest fast food chicken chain. Earlier this year, NRDC launched a campaign calling on KFC to commit to phasing out chicken raised with the routine use of antibiotics. And in the fall, NRDC and a coalition of groups released a scorecard ranking the antibiotics policies of the nation’s top 25 fast food chains. At that time, Burger King and KFC had each received an ‘F.’

A statement follows from David Wallinga, MD, a physician and Senior Health Officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“This is a small step that is much less meaningful for humankind than Burger King would have you believe. We’re disappointed Burger King didn’t take at least as much action as competitors McDonald’s or Subway to show it’s serious about helping to keep our lifesaving drugs working when people, including their customers, need them. The fast food industry is moving away from routine antibiotic use in their chicken supply and the chains that drag their feet will continue to fall behind.”

Approximately 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are sold for use in poultry and other livestock.

The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics have warned that in order to keep antibiotics working to treat sick humans, the agricultural industry must stop misusing antibiotics by administering them to animals that are not sick for growth promotion and disease prevention.

This agricultural misuse is a significant driver behind the growing prevalence of drug-resistant infections. The restaurant industry can help drive change by enacting purchasing policies to help keep life-saving drugs working at a time when evidence about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance is mounting.


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, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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