Of the 21 fast-food and fast-casual restaurants graded on their use of beef raised with antibiotics, the vast majority failed with grades of F. Only one, Chipotle, got an A.
The grades were released Thursday in the fifth-annual Chain Reaction survey. For the last five years, a group of food safety and environmental advocacy groups have banded together to rate the top 25 (by sales) fast-food and fast-casual restaurants in the U.S. The surveys cover overall antibiotic use in pork, chicken, turkey and beef, previously highlighting chicken. This year beef was selected. In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that cattle accounted for 42 percent of all medically important antibiotic sales to the U.S.
Four of the top 25 don’t use beef, so they weren’t graded.
Surveys were sent to the restaurants and they were graded based on existing policies, implementation of those policies, and transparency about antibiotic use. Publicly available information like company websites, annual reports and corporate sustainability reports were factored into grades and solely used if restaurants didn’t return surveys. Survey responses only counted for a portion of the overall grades.
Chipotle was the only restaurant to get an A, while Panera got an A-minus. Subway and McDonald’s both got Cs, Wendy’s got a D-plus and Taco Bell a D. Burger King, Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, Pizza Hut, Applebee’s, IHOP, Domino’s Pizza, Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic, Little Caesar’s, Starbucks, Arby’s, Panda Express and Chili’s all got Fs.
Ten of the top 25 restaurants, including Starbucks, Olive Garden, and Sonic, didn’t return survey results.
Wendy’s was dubbed the “biggest wanna-be” for publicizing efforts to reduce antibiotic use but failing to adequately implement any policies. McDonald’s, the single-largest supplier of beef, was called the “Biggest Mooover” for reducing antibiotic usage enough to go from an F last year to a C this year.
According to the report, a major issue is a lack of transparency in reporting practices and too few restaurants going beyond lax federal regulations governing antibiotic usage.
Many cattle producers feed animals antibiotics to prevent illness in crowded conditions, the report said, but that often leads to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that the World Health Organization said is creating a global health concern.