State Sen. Daniel Biss and consumer rights advocates are turning up the pressure on McDonald’s in a collaborative effort to reduce the use of antibiotics in the meat supply chain.
Biss, the Evanston state senator who came in second in the Democratic primary for governor, is sponsoring a bill that would further restrict antibiotic use in food-producing animals, such as beef cattle and hogs. Health experts in recent years have spoken out against the routine use of antibiotics to promote growth or prevent disease in animals because it contributes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.
The bill is aimed specifically at the farmers raising the animals, not fast-food chains. But Biss and representatives from the U.S Public Interest Research Group also are calling on Chicago-based McDonald’s, the largest fast-food chain in the world, to set concrete goals for phasing out the routine use of antibiotics in its supply chain.
In 2016, McDonald’s stopped serving in its U.S. restaurants chicken treated with antibiotics that are considered important to humans, but it hasn’t yet set a specific timeline for taking the same steps for beef or pork.
“The overuse of antibiotics by the meat industry is a real public health problem,” said Biss, whose term ends in January. “We’d like to see McDonald’s take the same stand with beef and pork.”
McDonald’s say it’s working on it. The company updated its “global vision for antibiotic stewardship” last year, saying it would limit the use in cattle and pigs of antibiotics important to human medicine. Spokeswoman Lauren Altmin said in an email Tuesday that the company is finalizing a global policy for beef that would begin to roll out before the end of this year.
“Preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations is highly important to McDonald’s,” Altmin said in a statement.
Biss’ bill hasn’t gotten a committee hearing since being introduced in April, but the senator and lobbyists with the Illinois chapter of U.S. PIRG say it likely will get a hearing in the legislative veto session next month — an opportunity to create some momentum and attract another sponsor. Biss acknowledged that someone else will need to carry the legislative torch to continue the conversation.
“I don’t think this is going to become law while I’m in the legislature,” Biss said. “I think this is a bigger project than that.”
The bill likely would face strong opposition from groups like the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Beef Association, who say the measure is redundant with federal guidelines and burdensome to farmers.
“Unfortunately, this bill only serves to duplicate existing regulation for the use of antibiotics in livestock production and does not take into account the judicious record keeping and veterinarian-client-patient relationship those cattlemen and women currently follow on their farms,” Buzz Iliff, vice president of the Illinois Beef Association, said in a statement.
In 2012, there were more than 16,000 farms with cattle in Illinois and more than 2,000 farms with hogs and pigs, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Though antibiotic use in raising food-producing animals is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the federal guidelines only prohibit the use of medically important antibiotics to promote growth, but they allow the continued use of antibiotics to prevent disease — creating a sort of loophole for the meat industry, said Matt Wellington, antibiotics program director for U.S. PIRG.
The bill sponsored by Biss would go further, Wellington said, prohibiting all routine use of medically important antibiotics, including those used to prevent disease. The advocacy group has backed similar laws recently passed in California and Maryland.
McDonald’s has more than 14,000 restaurants in the U.S. and more than 37,000 globally.
Region: Chicago,City: Chicago,Business
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October 17, 2018 at 06:03AM