McDonald's China to still use antibiotics

AFP
China is not included in the first batch of countries outside the US where fast food giant McDonald’s is to start rolling back the use of antibiotics in chicken products.
AFP

China is not included in the first batch of countries outside the United States where fast food giant McDonald’s is to start rolling back the use of antibiotics in chicken products.

The new global policy follows a similar move in the US market last year, and is part of efforts to curb microbial resistance to drugs and stem the rise of superbugs.

The policy applies to drugs also used in human medicine, or “highest priority critically important antimicrobials” (HPCIAs).

In 2018, HPCIAs will be eliminated in broiler chicken in Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the US and Europe, McDonald’s said. An exception will be made for the antibiotic colistin for Europe.

The policy will extend to Australia and Russia by the end of 2019, when the colistin exception for Europe will be phased out.

It will be fully implemented globally by January 2027, although the firm said: “Our goal is to have this policy implemented before this date.”

In a statement yesterday, McDonald’s China said it shares the same goal as its US headquarters in terms of reducing antibiotics.

“We have been working with government agencies, suppliers, industry associations and experts to push forward sustainable development of the farming industry in China based on the current situation,” it said.

It said it had been asking suppliers to comply with guidelines on the use of antibiotics, adding that all its raw chicken had passed tests and spot checks by qualified third-party laboratories.

Scientists have long argued there is a link between antibiotic use in animals and dwindling effectiveness in human medicine.

Industrial-scale poultry farmers often use antibiotics not to treat disease but to prevent it.

Some also use the drugs to help birds gain weight more quickly. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people in the US become infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics every year, leading to some 23,000 deaths.

Within decades, according to some estimates, drug-resistant bacteria may be causing more deaths than cancer.

“The widespread use of antibiotics in livestock that aren’t sick is contributing to a global public health crisis with potentially dire consequences,” said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at the non-profit US Consumers Union.

She added: “We commend McDonald’s for setting these goals and urge all fast food chains to use their market clout to protect public health before it’s too late.”

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