Fast Food Burger Chains Get F Score on Antibiotics in Beef Policy

People usually compare fast food burgers on taste, cost, or nutrition. But a new study looked at fast food restaurants’ policies on antibiotic use in beef, and unfortunately, a lot of your faves received failing grades.

A collaborative effort of several organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety, and Keep Antibiotics Working, the report issued an F to 22 of the top 25 burger chains in America, including McDonald’s and Burger King. Only two chains received an A: Shake Shack and BurgerFi. Wendy’s received a D-.

How Were The Grades Determined?

Researchers sent surveys to the top 25 U.S. burger, fast food, and fast casual chains (as determined by total sales) asking about their policies on antibiotics in beef. They also perused publicly available information, like websites and corporate reports, for details. The researchers determined numerical scores based on company policies, how well policies were implemented, and transparency; then, they used that score to assign a letter grade.

Shake Shack and Burger Fi received As because they use beef from cows not given any antibiotics. Wendy’s received a D- because 15 percent of its beef comes from producers that reduced their use of the antibiotic tylosin by 20 percent. (The medication is given to prevent infections in animals, and a 2007 study by the USDA found it may reduce effectiveness of a human antibiotic used to treat food poisoning, called erythromycin.)

The remaining restaurants received Fs because they either didn’t have publicly announced policies, or because their policies weren’t deemed “meaningful” by the researchers.

Studies have found that giving antibiotics to animals raised for food can cause bacterial resistant infections in people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To reduce this risk, the Food and Drug Administration has regulations for when antibiotics can be used in animals.

Dr. Tania Elliott, an infectious disease and internal medicine expert at NYU Langone, told MensHealth.com that it’s not just antibiotics in meat we should worry about.

“The bottom line is that we need to be stewards of appropriate antibiotic use in every aspect of life–making a conscious decision to avoid antibiotic-raised farm foods, and, taking antibiotics only when we have a confirmed bacterial infection,” she said. “This is the only way to curb antibiotic resistance.”

We will update this story with statements from restaurants included in the report if and when we receive them.

1

McDonald’s

Grade: F

In a statement to CBS News, McDonald’s spokesperson Lauren Altmin said preserving antibiotic effectiveness is important to the company: “In 2016, McDonald’s fully implemented its pledge to no longer serve chicken treated with antibiotics important to human medicine in its US restaurants, which led to the 2018 implementation of an antibiotic use policy for broiler chicken in markets around the globe. McDonald’s is currently finalizing a global antibiotics policy for beef, to begin roll out before the end of 2018.”

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4

Jack in the Box

Grade: F

When asked for comment about its antibiotics policy, Jack in the Box told MensHealth.com that the company has a policy available online, however, it only covers poultry. Its statement:

“We have engaged with our suppliers, NGOs, and ESG advocates to help us better understand public health issues associated with the poultry industry’s use of antibiotics important to human health. As a result, Jack in the Box does not purchase poultry that has received antibiotics important to human health for purposes of growth promotion or feed efficiency. We are working with our suppliers to eliminate the use of these medically important antibiotics in poultry for disease prevention. By 2020, our poultry suppliers may use medically important antibiotics only if prescribed by a veterinarian to treat sick animals or to protect the flock from a disease outbreak. Currently, more than 40 percent of poultry produced for Jack in the Box is raised in accordance with this policy, and audits will continue to track our suppliers’ progress towards our goal. We encourage continued research into the development of safe and ethical alternatives for the treatment of sick and injured animals, and we look forward to a time when antibiotics important to human medicine can be phased out of the food-supply chain.”

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11

In-N-Out Burger

Grade: F

In-N-Out told CBS it “remains committed to beef that is raised without the use of antibiotics important to human medicine. We’ve had many discussions with our suppliers to explore ways to accomplish this goal.”

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15

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

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18

The Habit Burger Grill

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