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Fast food report card for antibiotics in meat gives most chains a failing grade

FILE - A McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder is shown with the new fresh beef Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in Atlanta. McDonald's is offering fresh beef rather than frozen patties in some burgers at thousands of restaurants, a switch it first announced about a year ago as it works to appeal to customers who want fresher foods. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Fast-food chains are among the largest meat buyers in the country, which means they can demand certain things from their suppliers, like pushing meat producers to use antibiotics responsibly.

For decades, antibiotics have been used in livestock and poultry to prevent disease and promote growth in crowded and unsanitary mass production facilities. But that has created a crisis- a resistance to antibiotics. The drugs aren’t working the way they used to.

While chains like McDonald's have made huge improvements in terms of getting antibiotics out of chicken production, the beef industry has lagged behind.

Out of 25 burger chains surveyed, 22 received an F grade for failing to make meaningful commitments to address antibiotic misuse in their beef supply chains. Those chains include Burger King, Sonic, and McDonald’s, the largest purchaser of beef in the country.

No burger chain got a grade of B or C. Wendy’s received a D minus for making only a modest step in its sourcing of beef.

But two up-and-coming chains, Shake Shack and BurgerFi, received an A grade for getting antibiotics entirely out of their beef supply.

What this shows is that it can be done. So the hope is that other companies in the industry will learn from their example and follow suit.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 23,000 people die per year from infections that should have been cured by antibiotics but weren’t because the drugs didn’t work.

The latest fast food chain report card is part of an annual collaboration between Consumer Reports, the Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, the Natural Resourced Defense Council and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

A CR survey found almost 60 percent of people said they’d be more likely to eat at a restaurant that served meat without antibiotics.

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