U.S – The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has published a report purporting that conventional beef producers are selling antibiotic-raised cattle to McDonald’s and other fast food outlets in the U.S.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) arises when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites change over time and cease to respond to medications, making illnesses more difficult to treat and raising the risk of disease spread, serious illness, and death.

The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) claims that the research has mounted pressure on beef consumers to “shift their suppliers away from overusing antibiotics,” even if such antibiotics are thought to be beneficial for human medicine.

“This new report reinforces what we already know, the beef industry is overusing our life-saving medicines to produce slightly cheaper burgers and it’s making the drugs less effective for when we truly need them to squelch infections.

“While the FDA continues to drag its feet on the issue, it’s up to major beef buyers to use their purchasing power to dissuade meat producers from antibiotic overuse,” said Matt Wellington, Public Health Campaigns Director at PIRG.

The White House launched the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB) in 2014, underlining the importance of addressing AMR, records the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The agency mentions that the use of antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics in animals can have an impact on the development of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and may spread to humans.

As a result, antimicrobial medications may no longer be as effective in treating human disease.

McDonald’s declared in 2018 that it will set goals for eliminating the use of medically essential antibiotics in a significant portion of its worldwide beef supply chain by the end of 2020 in response to pressure from PIGR and its partners on AMR.

But according to PIRG, McDonald’s missed its own deadline.

McDonald’s has stated that it is “committed to a responsible [antibiotics] use approach” on its website.

It has also claimed it is actively making changes by “refining antibiotic selection and administration, reducing non-therapeutic antibiotic use and, when possible and replacing antibiotics with long-term solutions to proactively prevent diseases and protect animal health and welfare”.

McDonald’s committed in 2018 to setting clear targets for reducing antibiotic use in its beef supply chain but has since appeared to backtrack on that commitment.

“This report shines the spotlight on why it’s so critical that McDonald’s and other major beef buyers follow through on setting concrete targets for reducing antibiotic use in their meat supply chains,” Wellington said.

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