Previously I’ve written about the horrifying overuse of antibiotics in healthy livestock as a way to make the animals gain weight, and as a preventative in healthy animals. An annual report called ‘Chain Reaction’ that is put together by the NRDC, Center for Food Safety, Food Animals Concerns Trust, Friends of the Earth, and the Consumers Union tracks the antibiotic use policies, of the top 25 fast food and casual dining restaurants in America.

Each year, millions of Americans eat billions of pounds of meat from chain restaurants, much of it is contaminated with antibiotics that were used unnecessarily. This overuse of medicine is contributing to an imminent health crisis as we become increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Some chain restaurants have begun to make progress, creating policies that dictate the terms of antibiotic usage by their suppliers. While there has been significant progress by some national chains, many big names in the industry are lagging behind. Chicken sourcing has led the way for change with many companies creating policies to ensure that antibiotic-free chicken in their supply chains, but pork and beef lag far behind with few restaurants guaranteeing their safety.

antiobiotic-restaurant-scorecard-2016It is important to note that they vast majority of this year’s highlights only involve chicken. The use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in beef and pork to fatten animals up remains a persistent and dangerous habit by many livestock producers.

2016 Chain Reaction highlights:

  • Chipotle and Panera remain the only chains that currently are committed to antibiotic free meat in all of their products.
  • McDonald’s reports that 100 percent of the chicken served at its roughly 14,000 U.S. restaurants is now raised without antibiotics important in human medicine. They continue to make commitments about their beef and pork.
  • Taco Bell will be sourcing 100% of chicken without antibiotics by 2017.
  • Subway went from an F to a B- with a long-term commitment to eliminate antibiotics in all meat by 2025.
  • Dunkin Donuts was the only company that went down in ratings, receiving an F after they weakened their antibiotic policy.
  • Panera, McDonald’s, Subway, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut all received top grades for transparency and have audits available to the public through the USDA’s online Process Verified Program.
  • Half the companies in the survey have no policy, or watered down policies, for antibiotic use and it is assumed that their meat products are sourced from suppliers with unsafe antibiotic practices. These include: KFC, Olive Garden, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Chili’s, Sonic, Denny’s, Domino’s, Starbucks, Applebee’s, Jack in the Box, Arby’s, Dairy Queen, IHOP, Outback Steakhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Little Caesars.

“Antibiotic-resistant infections already cause more than 23,000 deaths and up to $55 billion in costs each year and antibiotic misuse in animal agriculture threatens to drive these numbers even higher,” said Steven Roach, food-safety program director of Food Animal Concerns Trust. “Even the CDC agrees that with the recent discovery of the latest colistin-resistant superbug, the end of the road for antibiotics is not far.” Vote with your dollar, you can make a real change by avoiding restaurants that don’t use antibiotic-free meat.

Chain Reaction shows that consumer demand is creating healthy market trends. What’s unfortunate is that chains and suppliers respond to consumer demand rather than doing the right thing in the first place. This easy-to-understand report card at least gives consumers a guideline for companies that are making efforts to act responsibly. Of course, a plant-based diet and avoiding fast food in the first place would have a more meaningful impact as we struggle as the world’s most obese nation, suffer from resistant to antibiotics, and face a slew of cancers from the overconsumption of meat. But, that being said, it is always a good thing to see Big Food taking some steps, albeit baby steps, in the right direction.

You can read the full 2016 Chain Reaction report here.

Sign the Center for Food Safety petition to tell the restaurants that received an “F” rating on the 2016 scorecard to adopt strong policies that prohibit the regular use of these antibiotics in their meat and poultry!