Consumers International welcomes McDonald’s improvement in global policy on antibiotics

25 August 2017

McDonald’s announced plans on Wednesday to eliminate the use of critically important antibiotics from its global chicken supply chain. The move has been welcomed by Consumers International.

McDonald’s has committed to prohibiting a group of the most valuable antibiotics used in human medicine in the production of chicken sold at its restaurants worldwide. 

Antibiotics classed by the World Health Organization as Highest Priority Critically Important (HPCIAs) to human medicine will be banned from use in chicken destined for restaurants in USA, Canada Brazil, Japan, and South Korea by the end of 2018. By the end of 2019 HPCIAs will be eliminated from chicken for Australia, Russia and Europe. By January 2027 HPCIAs will be prohibited in the production of chicken in all other McDonald’s markets around the world.

In a meeting with consumer and environmental organizations on August 17, McDonald’s stated that the changes made by 2018 will apply to 74 percent of its global chicken sales, followed by 80 percent in 2019.  By 2027, 98 percent of the chicken sold by McDonald’s internationally will come from poultry suppliers that abide by this policy.

Chicken served in McDonald’s branches in the US and Canada is already produced without HPCIAs, since the company operates a stricter policy in those countries, prohibiting all drugs from the full WHO list of important antibiotics.

Consumers International has been campaigning for global food chains to get Antibiotics off the Menu since 2015.  Misuse of antibiotics in food animals is a major driver of drug resistance. By 2050, drug-resistant infections are expected to cause 10 million deaths annually - becoming a bigger killer than cancer is today. Farm animals consume around two-thirds of the world’s antibiotics, with much of this added to feed or water to make animals grow faster or to counter unsanitary conditions in factory farming facilities.

On World Consumer Rights Day 2016 Consumers International and its members called on the world’s largest fast food companies to make global timebound commitments to stop serving meat from all animals routinely given antibiotics used in human medicine.

A timeline for reducing the use of antibiotics in its beef supply is expected from McDonald's soon.

Our view

This announcement by McDonald’s on chicken represents important progress. We await timelines from McDonald’s on other food animals and we urge other major global food chains to follow suit. Reducing the use of antibiotics in food animals is essential if we’re to avoid a return to an era when simple infections can kill”.

Amanda Long, Director General, Consumers International