Your Favorite Restaurant May Be Helping to Create Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

Some of the most popular restaurant chains are under fire for being a part of the antibiotic-resistant superbugs problem. Starbucks devotees, you might want to sit down for this one…

Some of the most popular restaurant chains are under fire for being a part of the antibiotic-resistant superbugs problem. Starbucks devotees, you might want to sit down for this one…

Just earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there are inadequate efforts against antibiotic resistance worldwide. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 23,000 Americans die each year as a result of the antibiotic resistance. Now, researchers from multiple health, environmental, and consumer groups are saying that part of the blame for the antibiotic-resistant superbugs in humans can be put on some of the most well-known eateries.

An alarming 70% of medically-important antibiotics are available for meat and dairy production use. A report titled “Chain Reaction” analyzed the top 25 US food chains and details which ones are guilty of using animals that are routinely fed antibiotics.

“Overusing antibiotics in meat production helps to create drug-resistant superbugs — our nation’s largest chain restaurants can be part of the problem, or part of the solution,” David Wallinga, MD, senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in a news release.

Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth, explained that animals used at various restaurant chains are regularly given antibiotics in order to prevent spreading disease to other animals in the crowded conditions. She went on to say that the restaurant industry needs to address the antibiotic resistance problem by removing antibiotics from meat products. Restaurants that brand themselves as ‘healthier’ have an added responsibility to serve food without antibiotics, but the reality does not tell the same story.

On a positive note, however, from 2009 to 2012 the sales of meat products without antibiotics rose by 25%. Places like Chipotle and Panera Bread have made headlines for cutting antibiotics and hormones from their menu. Still, 20 out of the top 25 eateries in the US failed to meet proper antibiotic policies.

Grade “A”

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread

Grade “B”

  • Chick-fil-A

Grade “C”

  • McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts

Grade “F” (Either do not have a disclosed policy on antibiotic use or do not have a plan to phase out routine use of medically important antibiotics in meat production)

  • Applebee’s, Arby’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Dairy Queen, Denny’s, Domino’s, IHOP, Jack in the Box, KFC, Little Caesars, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse Grill and Bar, Papa John’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s

“Companies need to insist that producers reduce density and improve animal diets, sanitation and other management practices within their producers’ facilities, to reduce the likelihood of disease and the need for routine drug use,” advised Steven Roach, food safety program director at Food Animal Concerns Trust and analyst for Keeping Antibiotics Working. “By doing so, these companies can play an important role ensuring better animal welfare and addressing one of our nation’s more serious public health threats.”