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Consumer groups evaluate fast food chains on their use of beef produced with antibiotics

Consumer groups provide many of the best restaurant chains in the United States that do not have ratings for their antibiotic policy used in their beef supply to burgers and other beef dishes.

The report is the result of a combined effort from the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Consumer Reports and Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, among others.

"Overuse of antibiotics in the beef industry threatens our health and fast food companies need to do more," said Matt Wellington, a co-author and antibiotic campaign director for the US PIRG Education Fund.

These are the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, which occur when antibiotics are used to control and kill bacteria being over-consumed or used incorrectly.

"Improving the prescription and use of antibiotics is essential to ensure that bacteria do not become resistant to antibiotics," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. "Prescribers should only treat people and animals with antibiotics when they need them for medically justifiable reasons."

Drug resistant bacteria in animals used in food supply can affect humans if people eat raw or undercooked contaminated meat, or come into contact with animal waste through contaminated beverages or bath water.

The new report looked at whether the restaurants even had a policy of restricting antibiotic use in beef supply chains, or a plan to phase it out, as well as how they are implementing these actions.

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Arby & # 39; s, Burger King and Jack in the Box received failing grades for not having any guidelines for beef cattle antibiotics. Jeff Solsby, vice president of advocacy communications for the National Department, Taco Bell and Wendy's deserved Ds, because of what the report authors called for inadequate plans to reduce antibiotic use.

"Restaurants are committed to protecting the health and safety of our guests. The Restaurant Association said in a statement to NBC News.

" This is a key reason why so many restaurants are providing nutrition and ingredient information and increasingly shares animal welfare and supply chain policies ̵[ads1]1; including responsible use of antibiotics that are important to animals and human health, "he continued.

Chipotle and Panera Bread achieved top marks in the new report. animals when they become ill.

According to Chipotle's website, "antibiotics and hormones are given to a majority of livestock to increase production," but Chipotle only buys meat from farmers who use antibiotics responsibly.

McDonald & # 39 ; s received a C grade this year – up from an F in 2018 – for its recent commitment to “reduce routinely medically important antibiotic use throughout the huge global supply chain and set specific reduction targets by the end of 2020, "according to the report.

"McDonald's believes antibiotic resistance is a critical public health issue, and we take our unique position seriously to use our scale too well to continue to tackle this challenge," Keith Kenny, global vice president for McDonald's Sustainability, wrote in a statement to NBC News.

A spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said that the group "promotes the harmful use of antibiotics to keep the potential risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria extremely low." The group has programs to advise ranchers on "guidelines for antibiotics, such as avoiding using antibiotics that are important in human medicine, "according to the statement.

Starbucks also received a failing grade in the new report, despite the fact that the coffee chain does not offer many beef products on the menus. The F rating was given because Starbucks does not have an antibiotic use policy in its beef supply chains, even though it has such a policy for poultry.

Progress of poultry

The fast food industry has already taken steps with chicken altogether. Last month, Chick-fil-A announced that none of the meat sold at the more than 2,400 restaurants had been treated with antibiotics.

"When we look at chicken, we have seen incredible progress over the last 5 years with restaurants getting antibiotics out of the supply, and having been mugging throughout the chicken industry," Wellington said.

Still, humans, not animals, are perhaps the biggest culprit in the rise of drug-resistant bacteria. Taking antibiotics for diseases for which they have no effect, such as those caused by fungi (such as vaginal yeast infections) or viruses (like influenza), causes drug resistance upward. Antibiotics are only effective for diseases caused by bacteria, including strep throat and urinary tract infections.

The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistance one of the top 10 threats to global public health, and issued a serious warning earlier this year: drug-resistant infections could cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050 if no measures are taken.

In the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates drug-resistant infections such as E. coli and MRSA have already infected more than 2 million and killed 23,000 people each year.

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