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Hamburger Restaurant Chains Often Fail to Limit Antibiotics in Meat Served: Report

Only two of the top 25 hamburger fast food chains in the country have sufficient measures in place to limit antibiotics in the meat used for their hamburgers, according to the findings of a new report. 

Consumer Reports, the Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group produced the report “Chain Reacton IV: Burger Edition”, including hamburger restaurant scorecards for antibiotic use policies for meat served at fast food chains and fast casual restaurants.

Researchers consider the growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria a global health crisis. In fact, the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider antibiotic-resistant bacteria among the top threats to global public health.

More than 23,000 Americans die from resistant infections each year. Unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions and the prolific use of antibiotics to raise meat used in the food chain contributes to the emergence of resistant bacteria. More than 70% of the medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on animals in the food chain.

As more and more rare antibiotic-resistant infectious diseases occur in the U.S., health experts say it is important to begin changing the way antibiotics are prescribed to humans and how it is used in livestock.

The first part of the report focused on 25 top U.S. burger chains. The chains were scored on antibiotic use policies in hamburger meat.

Of the twenty-five chains scored, only two fast food burger chains scored an A grade, Shake Shack and BurgerFi, which were the only two fast food burger restaurants to use beef raised without routine use of antibiotics.

Most other chains have no public antibiotic use policies in place. Wendy’s scored a D- because the chain sources 15% of it’s beef from producers that have cut medically important antibiotics from use by 20%. However, the remaining burger chains all scored an F, or failing grade, including McDonald’s, the largest purchaser of beef in the United States.

All chains which scored an F lacked a policy regarding routine use of antibiotics in beef. Those chains included west coast favorite In-N-Out, as well as Burger King, Jack in the Box, Hardee’s, Sonic Carl’s Jr., Five Guys, The Habit, and others.

The report included several honorable mentions for smaller chains that use beef raised without antibiotics, including Burger Lounge, Epic Burger, Tasty Burger, Elevation Burger, B.Good, Burgerville, and Good Times.

According to the report, a meaningful antibiotic use policy is one that calls for no medically important antibiotics to be used to raise beef, unless the animals are sick. It recommends that antibiotics never be used for growth promotion or disease prevention.

The new report also included a survey of the top 25 fast casual restaurant chains. Of those, three scored A grades.

Panera Bread, Chipotle and Chik-fil-A source meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics.Chik-fil-A indicated it is on track to have 100% of chicken raised with no antibiotics used by the end of 2019.

KFC, Subway, and Taco Bell each scored B grades. Eighteen chains adopted policies to limit the routine use of antibiotics in at least one meat category, primarily chicken, and 11 chains improved grades overall.

Chains that received F grades included Burger King, Dairy Queen, Sonic, Little Cesar, Buffalo Wild Wings, Olive Garden, and Chili’s.

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