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McDonald’s, Subway and KFC fail to respond to worldwide antibiotic resistance health risk

25 February 2016

Consumers International (CI) has today launched a new report highlighting the failure of global fast food chains to confront the challenge posed by antibiotic resistant bacteria. 


Antibiotic resistance constitutes a global public health crisis to which the overuse of antibiotics in farming is a major contributing factor. The use of antibiotics in agriculture is predicted to grow by two thirds: from 63,200 tons in 2010 to 105,600 tons in 2030. If urgent action is not taken to tackle antibiotic resistance we could face a future where common infections and minor injuries can kill again.

The report found that:

McDonald’s has made time bound commitments in 2 of the 100 countries in which it operates, just 2%. The chain has committed to sourcing chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics important for human medicine in the USA by 2017 and in Canada by 2018.  The commitment does not extend to other types of meat.

Subway has made a strong timebound commitment in the USA.  It has committed to sourcing chicken (2016), turkey (2019), beef (2025) and pork (2025) raised without any antibiotics. However, this commitment only applies to 1 of the 111 countries in which it operates, less than 1%.

KFC has made no meaningful commitment to sourcing meat raised without the use of antibiotics important for human medicine in any of the countries in which it operates.

With over 100,000 restaurants worldwide between them, McDonald’s, KFC and Subway have huge influence on the market for meat and animal products; their actions have the power to drive a shift in antibiotic use in agriculture.

Amanda Long, Consumers International Director General said:

"“Given the scale of the public health crisis the world is facing due to antibiotic resistance, the response from KFC, McDonald’s and Subway, as market leaders, has been woefully inadequate."

"Where commitments have been made they are confined to North America. We need an international response to stop antibiotic resistance. Superbugs don't recognise national borders.

Left unchecked, antimicrobial resistance will kill 10 million a year by 2050. Reducing the use of antibiotics in agriculture is an urgent and necessary step towards tackling this crisis. Global restaurant chains are in a strong position to drive a decrease in agricultural use of antibiotics, faster than legislative change alone. As this report demonstrates, none of the companies we received responses from have yet fully owned up to this responsibility.”

The report was compiled, with participation from our membership, in the lead up to World Consumer Rights Day on March 15th, the global day of action on consumer rights. This year consumer rights organisations around the world will be calling on multinational fast-food chains to remove meat raised on antibiotics important for human medicine from their menus.

Add your support to our Thunderclap campaign by clicking here.

Download the report available in English, Spanish and French below.