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Take Antibiotics off the Menu before it's too late

Consumer organisations around the world have joined together to call on McDonald’s, KFC and Subway to stop using meat raised with important antibiotics, ahead of a UN General Assembly High-Level meeting on antimicrobial resistance on 21st September.

By 2050, antimicrobial resistance is predicted to kill 10 million a year, more than cancer. Half of the world’s antibiotics are consumed by farm animals, often to make them grow faster and to offset dangerous factory farm conditions, rather than to treat sickness. This overuse is building resistance to these vital drugs and if left unchecked could mean the end of modern medicine.

As market leaders, McDonald’s, Subway and KFC could lead the way on this issue. Instead they all continue to use meat raised with antibiotics important to human medicine (as defined by the World Health Organization).

There has been some action from these companies but it does not go far enough.

In the USA, McDonald’s has removed chicken raised with important antibiotics from its menu, with Canada to follow. Subway has committed to serve chicken raised with no antibiotics at all from 2016, with a plan to extend this to all of the meat it serves by 2025 in the USA.

KFC has not done much. It has said it will stop using just a handful of highest priority critically important antibiotics from the WHO list but this leaves those listed as highly important and important still on the menu.

McDonald’s in Europe has said that it will stop the use of some important antibiotics in the chicken it serves, but fails to go as far as McDonald’s in the USA and McDonald’s in Canada. KFC and Subway have yet to make commitments anywhere outside of North America. 

Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem, with superbugs and antibiotic resistant bacteria travelling across borders and over international regions. It is not something that can be solved by action in one country only.

Consumers International’s Antibiotics off the Menu campaign has brought together more than 90 consumer organisations in more than 60 countries calling on these market leading, global fast food companies to remove meat raised with important antibiotics from all of their restaurants.

Currently consumer organisations in Indonesia, Italy, Peru, Japan, Mexico and Belgium are asking consumers on the ground in those countries to write directly to the global heads of these companies to demand global commitments on this issue.

Amanda Long, Director General, Consumers International:

From a global perspective these commitments from McDonald’s and Subway are inadequate and KFC isn’t even off the starting blocks. Without global action we are looking at a truly apocalyptic scenario where the smallest cut or a simple chest infection could kill us. Already we are seeing more and more common infections become resistant to our current drugs.

“Fast food chains are a major buyer of meat and are global brands. They are in an important position to be able to make significant change on this issue. The window of opportunity to turn the tide on this issue is closing - we need action before it’s too late.

Marta Tellado, CEO/President of Consumer Reports and Consumers International Board member, will be representing the consumer movement at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance in New York on the 21st September.

Find out more about the campaign here.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Fiona Brookes +44 20 7226 6663 (ex 208)  FBrookes@consint.org.


Notes to Editors

Antimicrobial resistance versus antibiotic resistance 

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines. Bacteria, not humans, become antibiotic resistant. These bacteria may then infect humans and are harder to treat than non-resistant bacteria. Antimicrobial resistance is the broader term for resistance in different types of microorganisms and encompasses resistance to antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic and antifungal drugs.