STUDY: Most of the Largest Low-Cost Restaurant Chains In the U.S. Use Meat Spiked With Superbug-Creating Antibiotics

By Kenrya Rankin Sep 16, 2015

A new study by six environmental and consumer saftey groups examines the meat and poultry used in America’s top 25 fast food and casual dining chains. What it uncovered might make you think twice before hitting up the drive-through.

In “Chain Reaction: How Top Restaurants Rate On Reducing Use of Antibiotics In Their Meat Supply,” 20 out of 25 of the chains evaluated earned an “F” for selling products sourced from meat suppliers who routinely use antibiotics. 

Surveys show that African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to eat fast food than their white counterparts, with 52 and 53 percent, respectively, hitting up the line at least once a week. Forty-six percent of whites eat it weekly. And data released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics shows that 34.3 percent of children eat fast food on any given day.

“From bacon cheeseburgers to chicken nuggets, most meat served by America’s chain restaurants comes from animals raised in industrial-scale facilities, where they are routinely fed antibiotics to prevent disease that is easily spread in crowded, unsanitary, stressful conditions,” Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at study contributor Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “It’s time for the U.S. restaurant industry to take leadership and address the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance by working with their meat and poultry suppliers to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics and improve overall conditions in U.S. meat production.”

David Wallinga, M.D., senior health officer of Natural Resources Defense Council, also a study contributor, detailed why antibiotic-laced meat is a problem for consumers: “Overusing antibiotics in meat production helps to create drug-resistant superbugs—our nation’s largest chain restaurants can be part of the problem, or part of the solution.”


The following chains received an “F” on the scorecard, for either having no disclosed policy on antibiotic use, or for having policies that don’t phase out routine use of antibiotics: Applebee’s, Arby’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Dairy Queen, Denny’s, Domino’s, IHOP, Jack in the Box, KFC, Little Caesars, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse Grill and Bar, Papa John’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s.

Just two companies—Chipoltle and Panera Bread—have “A”-rated polices that not only restrict the use of antibiotics, but outlaw hormones and beta agonists (used to increase animal growth), too. Chick-fil-a got a “B” for earning 78 percent of the possible points on the scorecard. And Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s received grades of “C.”

"Chain Reaction" was a joint effort between advocacy groups Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Keep Antibiotics Working and Center for Food Safety. In addition to the report, 109 advocacy groups signed a letter urging the failing restaurants to drop antibiotics from the food they serve.