Since 2015, NRDC and our allies—Friends of the Earth, Consumers Union, Food Animal Concerns Trust, and Center for Food Safety—together representing millions of consumers, have reviewed and rated the top 25 fast-food and -casual restaurant chains in the United States on their antibiotics use policies and practices. We also looked at overall transparency in their meat and poultry supply chains. The results are published annually in a report called Chain Reaction.
Voluntary commitments from top restaurant chains to shift away from the routine use of antibiotics in their large meat and poultry supply chains are an important lever in changing how these drugs are used in the meat industry. Consumers are voicing their concerns about the public health threat of antibiotic resistance in greater and greater numbers. Over the past few years, the largest chicken producers and some of the restaurant chains they supply have become leaders in curbing routine antibiotics use. We hope that others follow suit.
Rather than being used only when animals are sick, antibiotics are often used to accelerate animal growth and to prevent diseases stemming from poor diets and crowded, stressful, and dirty conditions. When livestock producers administer antibiotics routinely to their animals, bacteria can develop resistance, thrive, and even spread to our communities, contributing to the larger problem of antibiotic resistance—this means that antibiotics may not work when we need them the most.
The market alone will not solve the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance, nor can it protect people from the rising threat of superbugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must take action to regulate antibiotics use across the livestock stock and end the routine use of these drugs for both growth promotion and disease prevention.