McDonald's Corporation today announced plans that call for its suppliers worldwide to phase-out of animal growth promotion antibiotics that are used in human medicine. The Global Policy on Antibiotics also creates a set of standards for McDonald's direct meat suppliers and encourages indirect suppliers to take similar steps to eliminate growth-promoting antibiotics and to reduce other antibiotic usage.
"As a company committed to social responsibility, we take seriously our obligation to understand the emerging science of antibiotic resistance, and to work with our suppliers to foster real, tangible changes in our own supply community, and hopefully beyond," said Frank Muschetto, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Supply Chain Management at McDonald's Corporation. "McDonald's is asking producers that supply over 2.5 billion pounds of chicken, beef and pork annually to take actions that will ultimately help protect public health."
McDonald's Global Policy on Antibiotics Use in Food Animals was developed with a broad-based coalition of organizations interested in the issue and committed to identifying opportunities within animal agriculture. In July 2002, McDonald's joined forces with Environmental Defense, an environmental advocacy organization and a partner with McDonald's on a range of initiatives since 1989, and Elanco Animal Health, an animal pharmaceutical company, to create an Antibiotics Coalition. Other members of the coalition included McDonald's suppliers Tyson Foods and Cargill. Also participating in the coalition were Brigham and Women's Hospital physician Dr. Thomas O'Brien, Oxford University animal welfare expert Dr. Marian Dawkins and Bon Appetit Management Company. The Meridian Institute facilitated the coalition process.
"By working together, McDonald's and Environmental Defense have leveraged the company's purchasing power to help reverse the trend of antibiotics overuse in animal agriculture," said Gwen Ruta, program director for Environmental Defense. "McDonald's new policy demonstrates that reducing antibiotic use is both feasible and affordable."
"Direct relationship" suppliers are those dedicated to McDonald's business and directly control the stages of animal production where antibiotic use decisions are made. The majority of McDonald's worldwide poultry supply falls into this category. Direct suppliers must certify annual compliance with the policy, including the sustainable use guiding principles and the elimination of growth promotion uses of antibiotics approved for use in human medicine, and must maintain records of antibiotics use that are available for company audits and review.
Tyson Foods is a direct supplier of poultry to McDonald's.
"Tyson Foods has worked productively with McDonald's in addressing the issue of antibiotic use in our poultry production. Along with McDonald's we believe it is critical for our company and our industry to utilize antibiotics in a responsible manner, which preserves their long-term effectiveness in both human and veterinary medicine," said Archie Schaffer, senior vice president of external relations, Tyson Foods.
McDonald's policy will also be encouraged for indirect suppliers, which includes most beef and pork suppliers. For indirect relationship suppliers, McDonald's Global Policy on Antibiotics Use offers incentives for compliance with the policy and other actions that may reduce the potential for antibiotic resistance. Indirect suppliers seeking consideration as a preferred supplier in regards to the policy must also certify compliance and maintain records of their antibiotic use.
For example, some of Cargill's products fall within the indirect category.
"Cargill recognizes McDonald's effort to address this important issue", said Mark Klein, Director of Cargill's Public Affairs. "The McDonald's policy is one of many steps that should be considered to promote human health, animal health and the responsible use of antibiotics and alternative antibiotics."
McDonald's Global Policy on Antibiotics builds upon a number of leadership initiatives that the company has already taken on this issue. McDonald's Europe began phasing-out growth promoting antibiotics during 2000. At the end of 2001, all European-based suppliers for poultry had eliminated growth promoting antibiotics for use in chicken feed. In 2001, McDonald's USA decided to discontinue all uses of the antibiotic class of fluoroquinolones with its poultry supply.
McDonald's will work together with other coalition members and encourage adoption of similar policies within the food and restaurant industry.
"Elanco supports McDonald's overarching goal of the sustainable use of antibiotics," states Dennis Erpelding, corporate affairs manager for Elanco Animal Health. "We feel our partnership and collaboration with McDonald's represents a key milestone for the sustainable use of antibiotics in food animals, which are vital to ensure healthy animals and thus a safe food supply. As a provider of animal health products to McDonald's suppliers, we encourage the judicious use of antibiotics, advocate a science based approach for evaluating sustainability and remain committed to educating and working with all key food chain stakeholders."