New York Public Interest Research Group for Immediate Release
New York: Consumer and public health advocacy organizations are calling on Wendy’s to stop serving beef raised with the routine use of antibiotics. The U.S. PIRG Education Fund and NYPIRG are urging the third-largest burger chain in the United States to follow the lead of its rival, McDonald’s, which recently announced a detailed antibiotics policy for its beef supply chain. The groups visited a Wendy’s in Midtown Manhattan to announce the campaign.
A recent estimate suggests that up to 162,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant infections every year, making them the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Health experts, including the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics, warn that the routine use of antibiotics on animals that aren’t sick fuels drug-resistant bacteria.
“We can’t waste life-saving medicines to produce cheap beef. The cost to our health is too high, and Wendy’s can use its buying power to help move the beef industry away from overusing antibiotics,” said Matthew Wellington, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics Campaign Director.
“NYPIRG and the students we work with care about this issue because the overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms threatens our health. Superbugs are a very serious health problem; they are not a take-the-midterm-a-week-late kind of sick. We are counting on Wendy’s to steer the ship away from superbugs by holding the antibiotics and putting our health first,” said Megan Ahearn, Program Director, NYPIRG.
Wendy’s no longer serves chicken raised with the use of medically important antibiotics, and it’s also taken modest steps to reduce use in its beef supply chain. The company currently sources about 20 percent of its beef from producers that have cut the use of one medically important by 20 percent. That minor step forward earned the chain a D- on the Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition scorecard, which graded top burger chains on antibiotic use in their beef supply chains.
For the last four years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Antibiotics Off the Menu Coalition have been urging food companies to phase routine antibiotic use out of their meat supply chains. Their efforts have helped convince McDonald’s, Subway, KFC and more companies to address this critical public health threat.
“A large majority of consumers want to see antibiotics out of meat production. In a 2018 national poll by Consumer Reports, 78 percent of consumers said producers should stop giving antibiotics to animals that are not sick. And 59 percent said they would be more likely to eat at a restaurant where the meat was produced without antibiotics,” said Jean Halloran, Director, Food Policy Initiatives, Consumer Reports.
Background info on antibiotic overuse on farms:
Nearly two-thirds of the medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are for use on food animals, and meat producers often use the drugs to compensate for unsanitary, overcrowded, and stressful living conditions. To keep antibiotics working, we need to limit their use to situations when animals are sick, or to control verified infectious disease outbreaks on the farm.
U.S. PIRG Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization. It is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being
NYPIRG, the New York Public Interest Research Group, is a non-partisan, nonprofit, research and public education organization. NYPIRG is an independent 501(c)(3) organization. Over the decades, we have helped to bring the voices of average New Yorkers to public policy debates to strengthen our democracy, enhance the rights of consumers and voters, and protect the environment and public health.