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Press Release: Antibiotics Awareness Week - Consumers Demand Action from Fast Food Chains

17 November 2016

This World Antibiotics Awareness Week more than 228,000 people across the world have called on top global restaurant chains to stop using meat raised with medically important antibiotics.

Consumers around the globe are calling on KFC, McDonald’s and Subway to make global, timebound commitments to limit antibiotics by writing to the CEOs through campaigning organisations Consumers International and ShareAction, and through online petitions with Consumer Reports and with SumOfUs.

By 2050, drug resistant infections are predicted to kill 10 million people a year – more than die from cancer today. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics in farming is a major driver of antibiotic resistance. Almost two-thirds of the world’s antibiotics are administered to farm animals, often to make them grow faster and to offset stressful and unsanitary factory farm conditions, rather than to treat sickness.

Alongside the e-actions, a coalition of NGOs, scientists and doctors, led by Consumers International, has published an open letter to the CEOs of McDonalds, Subway and KFC, calling for global commitments to end the routine use of all antibiotics included on the World Health Organization's list of important antimicrobials, across all of the companies’ supply chains.

The global campaign has followed progress made by the fast food industry in USA where, according to Chain Reaction 2, a recent report co-written by the world’s largest consumer organisation and our member Consumer Reports, 9 of the top 25 chains have made commitments to reduce antibiotic use. McDonald’s has removed chicken raised with medically important antibiotics from the menu in its USA branches, with Canada to follow. Subway has committed to serving chicken from animals raised with no antibiotics in its US stores by the end of 2016, with all of its meat to follow suit by 2025. While this is welcome partial progress, more ambitious action is required globally.

KFC lags dramatically behind the other two chains in the USA. The company does not have a clear and timebound policy to end the routine use of medically important antibiotics in its chicken supply. KFC was one of 16 restaurant chains whose antibiotics policy received a letter grade of ‘F’ from the Chain Reaction 2 report. KFC faces growing pressure in USA, where it was already subject to a petition on antibiotics signed by 350,000 in August.

Outside North America progress is slower. 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. Subway has yet to make commitments anywhere outside of North America. KFC has made no meaningful commitments anywhere.

Amanda Long, Director General, Consumers International:

“We welcome the progress made by Subway and McDonalds in North America but we need global action. These are global, household names who are in a position to lead their sector. The progress made in the USA, particularly on chicken, can and must be replicated in other regions.

Without global action on antibiotic resistance we are looking at a truly frightening 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.

People everywhere are starting to wake up to how the choices made by the food industry are linked to growing antibiotic resistance – and the role consumers can play in demanding change. People do not want meat from routinely medicated animals and are making their voices heard. Companies need to listen to their customers.”


Notes to Editors

  • Consumers International, working together with our 240 members in 120 countries, is the only independent and authoritative global voice for consumers.
  • Consumers International’s Antibiotics off the Menu campaign has already brought together more than 90 consumer organisations in more than 65 countries calling on Subway, McDonald’s and KFC to remove meat raised with important antibiotics from all of their restaurants. Find out more about the campaign here.
  • Consumers International Members in Belgium, Italy, Japan, Peru, Mexico and are hosting online initiatives allowing consumers to write directly to the CEOs of McDonald’s, Subway and KFC.
  • ShareAction is a UK charity that aims to improve corporate behaviour on environmental, social and governance issues through responsible investment by pension funds and other institutional investors. ShareAction’s petition to McDonald’s has been signed by 10,745 members of the public.
  • SumOfUs is a global consumer group that campaigns to hold big corporations accountable. Over 10 million people have taken over 50 million actions worldwide with SumOfUs since it launched. SumOfUs is hosting a petition to McDonald’s. It has been signed by 128,765.
  • KFC, along with 16 other chains, is subject to online petitions in USA, run jointly by CI Member Consumer Reports. 84,255 US consumers have signed.
  • Chain Reaction 2 was co-written by Consumers Union and published 20 September 2016. It’s available here.
  • World Antibiotic Awareness Week is co-ordinated by the World Health Organization and aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. It runs from 14th- 19th November.
  • A coalition including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Food Animals Concern Trust, Center for Science in the Public Interest, US Public Interest Research Group and CredoMobile delivered over 350,000 signed petitions to KFC headquarters in August, calling on the company to end routine antibiotics use in its chicken supply.