Our favorite fast foods could come back to bite us, according to a report released Wednesday — and it’s not just the extra calories.
The new report grades the 25 largest US fast food chains on where they stand on antibiotics.
The results are a mixed bag: For the third year in a row, the only two As were awarded to Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread. More companies passed this year than ever before.
But 11 of the top 25 chains received an F, having taken “no (discernible) action to reduce use of antibiotics in their supply chains.”
Nine companies didn’t respond to the survey at all, just like last year.
“These drugs have historically been given to animals that are not sick, to accelerate weight gain and prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary industrial farming conditions,” wrote the authors, who come from six public interest groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union and the Center for Food Safety.
While regulations and consumer pressure have encouraged some chains to cut back on the use of antibiotics, some experts worry it’s not enough to stave off development of “superbugs” that can’t be killed by some of our current medicines. These bugs may get into our meat and produce.
“If we don’t rein in this pattern of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, what we will see is half a century of medical progress reversed,” said Lena Brook, a food policy advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She has served as a lead expert on the report for each of the past three years.
Despite nearly half of restaurants receiving a failing grade, this is an improvement over the 16 that failed last year, the authors said.
“It’s a rapid shift that we’ve seen in just a few short years, and that leaves me really hopeful,” Brook said.
Who passed, and who didn’t?
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A total of 14 fast food and “fast casual” chains earned passing grades, a boost over nine last year. There were only five the year before that, in 2015.
“It is important to note, however, that while remarkable progress has been made to reduce or even eliminate use of medically important antibiotics, this progress has largely occurred in chicken production,” the authors said.
This is how Chipotle and Panera have stood above the rest: by making sure that pork and beef — in addition to poultry — are raised without antibiotics.