McDonald’s has announced plans to reduce the overall use of antibiotics across 85% of its global beef supply chain.
According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development.
However, there is limited antibiotic usage data available across the global beef industry.
McDonald’s, in collaboration with its suppliers and beef producers, will first measure and understand current usage of antibiotics in its top 10 beef sourcing markets – including the UK.
The findings will be used to establish reduction targets for medically important antibiotics by the end of 2020. Starting in 2022, the chain will report progress against these targets.
McDonald’s said the policy (available here) took 18 months to develop, and involved consulting a cross-section of expert stakeholders including veterinarians, public health leaders and beef producers.
In 2016, McDonald’s reached its US target to serve only chicken not treated with antibiotics important to human medicine. Last year, this was expanded to markets around the world.
In November, 10 of the UK’s most senior medics called on the government to ban preventative antibiotic group treatments in livestock.
In a short letter, the experts warned that failure to enforce a ban “will result in the UK having some of the weakest regulatory standards for farm antibiotic use in Europe”. This could “seriously undermine the very welcome progress currently being made in reducing UK farm antibiotic use and negatively impact human health”, they added.
Farm antibiotic use has been cut significantly in the UK in recent years, but worldwide it is estimated that 73% of all antibiotics are used in livestock rather than in medicine.