Responsible Antibiotic Use
Use of antibiotics in our chicken supply chain defined as Highest Priority Critically Important to Human Medicine (HPCIA) has been eliminated in: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea and the United States
Pilots established in each of our top 10 beef sourcing countries to reduce the overall use of medically important antibiotics
Antimicrobial resistance is a critical global public health issue. McDonald’s understands the key role we play in creating awareness throughout our supply chains on responsible antibiotic use, ensuring antibiotic effectiveness for future generations.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animals and humans is contributing to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance in humans."1 McDonald’s is partnering with suppliers, veterinarians, academia and farmers to ensure the responsible use of antibiotics in our supply chain, including reducing the use of medically important antibiotics in food animal production. Our approach is one of responsible use. We know that animals, like people, get sick and when they do, effective treatment includes use of the narrowest spectrum of antibiotics, based on the professional opinion and diagnosis of the veterinarian.
Through our commitment to responsible antibiotic use, we are doing our part to help preserve its effectiveness for future generations.
McDonald’s is committed to the responsible use of antibiotics according to guidelines set out by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (formerly the OIE) and other recognized public and animal health bodies.
Our efforts to address antimicrobial resistance within our supply chain is highlighted in our revised 2017 Vision for Antibiotic Stewardship (VAS). This document outlines our approach to responsible antibiotic use and commitment to the development of species-specific (Chicken, Beef and Pork) policies.
Our VAS seeks animal production practices that reduce and, where possible, eliminate the need for antibiotic therapies in animals, by helping to identify and scale leading practices that progressive farms already employ. Our VAS and protein-specific policies are based on the “One Health” approach, which emphasizes the need for collaborative, multi-discipline efforts at local, national and global levels to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.
We understand that animals, like people, get sick and require treatment. Treatment of sick animals supports our decades-long commitment to improving the health and welfare of animals in our supply chain. As such, we support a responsible use approach, which focuses on refining antibiotics selection and administration, reducing their use and ultimately replacing antibiotics with long-term solutions to prevent diseases and protect animal health and welfare. With this in mind, we remain committed to treating animals when needed.
Collaborating With Stakeholders
Partnering with external experts is at the core of how we approach the development and implementation of our antibiotics policies. The issue of antimicrobial resistance is one that requires global multi-stakeholder, cross-industry collaboration to tackle. We engage a variety of stakeholders, including academia, suppliers, farmers and ranchers, NGOs, veterinary networks and others who have deep understanding of these issues and of ways that progress can be made. McDonald’s was a founding participant of the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA). Through this cross-industry collaboration, we work to identify and advance commercial solutions to address antimicrobial resistance.
The path for creating and implementing a global antibiotic use policy for beef is unprecedented. I’ve been encouraged by the thoroughness with which McDonald’s has engaged diverse experts while creating this policy and the seriousness with which they take this important issue.
Dan Thomson, MS, PhD, DVM, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University
Putting Standards Into Practice
The Responsible Use of Antibiotics in Food Animals is the foundation of McDonald’s global VAS. The following principles draw from existing frameworks:
- People first – Antibiotics that are approved for both human and animal use, other than those defined by the WHO as HPCIA, may be used in animals for disease treatment or prevention only in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements and after thorough consideration of alternatives, including the use of antibiotics belonging to classes not used in human medicine.
- Quality and safety – McDonald’s is committed to ensuring wholesome and safe food for our customers. Safe food is McDonald’s number one priority and is central to all Company operations.
- Animal health and welfare – Treating animals with care is integral to McDonald’s animal health and welfare program. Disease prevention strategies, such as good husbandry and hygiene, routine health monitoring, immunization and other preventative options, should be emphasized before the use of antibiotics. However, to not treat sick animals is inhumane and inconsistent with McDonald’s belief that food animals within the McDonald’s System supply chain are properly cared for throughout their lives.
- Antibiotics for food animals – Responsible use of any category of antibiotic is an integral part of an overall animal health and welfare program. These principles do not preclude the responsible use of any category of antibiotic, except for HPCIAs, to treat or, where appropriate, prevent disease.
- Veterinary oversight – Veterinary oversight through a valid veterinary client-patient relationship is core to responsible antibiotic use. Antibiotics shall be used in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements, and shall be used only in accordance with the product license requirements and as directed by a veterinarian.
- Limit exposure – Antibiotic use should be confined to appropriate clinical indications. Exposure to antibiotics for disease treatment or prevention should be minimized by limiting treatment to sick animals or animals at risk of a specific disease. The use of any category of antibiotic for disease prevention should be regularly reassessed by a veterinarian. Usage of an antibiotic in a manner that is not in accordance with labeled directions, including but not limited to, a different dosage, time interval, route/application method, clinical indication or species, may be prescribed only after other antibiotic treatment options have been exhausted, and must be prescribed in accordance with the most up-to-date laws and regulations that govern drug use.
- Record keeping – Accurate records of treatment and outcomes should be used to evaluate antibiotic regimen. Identify, track and maintain medication and treatment records for all treated animals.
Helping Support the Sustainable Development Goals
Our work on responsible antibiotic use helps supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, in particular:
Eliminate the use of antibiotics defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (HPCIA) to human medicine – as defined by the WHO – from all chicken served by 2027.2
HPCIA use has been eliminated in the following McDonald’s markets: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea and the United States. China will comply on or before 2027.
Pilots have been established in each of our top 10 beef sourcing countries, representing differing geographies and rearing practices covering commercial feedlots, small producers and dairies.
Implementing a Global Chicken Antibiotics Policy
As part of our commitment to use responsibly sourced chicken, in 2017 we implemented our Chicken Antibiotics Policy in our 10 markets around the world.3 This policy requires responsible use of antibiotics in broiler chickens by System Suppliers and prohibits antibiotics used for routine prevention or growth promotion. All in-scope markets are on track to eliminate the use of HPCIAs in our chicken supply on or before 2027.
We are focused on expanding our efforts globally year-over-year. Since February 2019, we’ve tracked antibiotic use in over 4.25 billion birds from 20 suppliers, and 85 slaughter facilities for 88 separate medicines, resulting in significant reductions in antibiotic use across our supply chain. We partner with Farm Animal Initiative (FAI), a farm animal and agricultural research company based in Oxford, UK, on data collection and third-party verification of producer data.
Reducing Antibiotic Use in Beef
We implemented our Antibiotic Use Policy for Beef and Dairy Beef (PDF – 520 KB) in 2018. As part of our beef antibiotic use policy, we committed to conducting a 10-market pilot test to establish market-specific baseline use. Our beef policy is informed by the VAS, and is time-bound, actionable and follows global guidance from expert bodies like the WHO and Organization for Animal Health.
In partnership with our suppliers and producers, our goal is responsible antibiotic use — as defined by the WHO, aligned with the One Health approach and the 3 R’s (Reduce, Refine and Replace) — across our top 10 beef sourcing markets, representing more than 85% of our global beef supply chain.
Responsible use starts with understanding how, when and why antibiotics are used in our beef supply chain. Because of the limited data available across the global beef industry, McDonald’s collaborated with our suppliers and beef producers to complete a global pilot test in 2020, in which participants from commercial feed lots, small farm operations and dairy farms provided data on antibiotic use. This data will be used to inform future work within our supply chain. As with chicken, we partnered with FAI Farms in Oxford, UK, to collect, verify, analyze and ultimately report on antibiotic use within our beef supply chain. This work continues, with tracking tools and testing to be conducted in 2021.
As outlined in our VAS, McDonald’s is also committed to developing species-specific antibiotics policies in pork. A responsible antibiotic use policy for pork is under development.
2 Markets covered by the goal include: Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Russia, China and Europe. For the sake of this goal, Europe includes the following countries: Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ukraine.
4 Markets covered by the policy include: Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Russia, China and Europe. For the sake of this policy, Europe includes the following countries: Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ukraine.
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