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Fast-food chains still serve meats containing antibiotics — here are the ones to watch out for

These are the fast food chains still serving meats with antibiotics
These are the fast food chains still serving meats with antibiotics

Chick-fil-A announced last week that it would be shifting away from antibiotic-free chicken starting this spring — though they aren’t the only fast-food chain still using antibiotics in their meats.

According to the non-profit U.S. Public Interest Research Group, restaurant chains Burger King, Starbucks, Olive Garden, Panda Express, Little Caesars, Domino’s, Sonic, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings and Pizza Hut were all given an “F” for antibiotics in meat.

Chick-fil-A announced last week that it would be shifting from antibiotic-free chicken. Oksana – stock.adobe.com
Chick-fil-A announced last week that it would be shifting from antibiotic-free chicken. Oksana – stock.adobe.com

Taco Bell, Applebee’s and iHOP were all graded a “D” in their efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics, the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a 2021 assessment done in partnership with Consumer Reports and other organizations.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Subway were rated a “C,” Panera was given an “A-” and Chipotle scored an “A.” Nothing was rated a “B.”

“The growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a global health crisis, threatening to create a future in which common infections could once again become life-threatening on a large scale,” the report said.

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria on meat that causes food poisoning — such as salmonella and campylobacter — evolves to become unaffected by the antibiotic drugs used to kill them and may become indestructible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both consider it one of the top global public health threats.

Wendy’s committed to ending the routine use of medically-important antibiotics by the end of 2030. Getty Images
Wendy’s committed to ending the routine use of medically-important antibiotics by the end of 2030. Getty Images

The CDC estimates that at least 35,000 Americans die from resistant infections every year, and each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness.

Germs like campylobacter, salmonella and shigella contribute to an estimated 742,000 antimicrobial-resistant infections annually.

The number of drugs these germs are resistant to seems to be increasing, the CDC added.

Taco Bell, Applebee’s and iHOP were all graded a “D” in their efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics. Christopher Sadowski
Taco Bell, Applebee’s and iHOP were all graded a “D” in their efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics. Christopher Sadowski

“Fast food restaurants, as some of America’s largest meat buyers, can play an instrumental role in pushing meat producers to use antibiotics responsibly,” the report read. “Fast food can have a significant impact on antibiotic use in the beef industry.”

“Although there is massive progress in the chicken industry in response to such consumer demand, many fast food restaurants have failed to make meaningful commitments to address antibiotic overuse in their beef supply chains this year,” the report continued, adding that Wendy’s is “one notable exception” as the company committed to ending the routine use of medically-important antibiotics by the end of 2030.

Before backtracking, Chick-fil-A switched to antibiotic-free chicken in 2014, eventually meeting its goal of serving antibiotic-free chicken at all chain restaurants in 2019.

“To maintain supply of the high-quality chicken you expect from us, Chick-fil-A will shift from No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) to No Antibiotics Important To Human Medicine (NAIHM) starting in the spring of 2024,” Chick-fil-A’s turnaround announcement read last week.

Chik-fil-A isn’t the only company to retreat on an antibiotics promise.

Panera Bread recently switched from its antibiotic-free policy in its pork and turkey products, claiming that the policy limited supply chain options, according to Reuters.

Tyson Foods also stopped using its “no antibiotics ever” label on its chicken last summer, having previously gone antibiotic-free in 2017.