Most fast food is bad for us. We know it. There’s no reason for us to go into the details about the relationship between French fries and fat cells today. But there’s another reason we should reconsider eating at some of the biggest fast food and casual chain restaurants. We may be getting more than we bargain for — in the form of antibiotics.
Six environmental and consumer interest groups recently published a report that focused on 25 of the top fast and casual dining establishments throughout the U.S. This report graded restaurants on the following categories and subcategories of policies:
Antibiotics Use Policies
- Does the restaurant have a good policy regarding antibiotics? In order to score a maximum of 10 points in this category, the company must prohibit “routine use of all antibiotics for disease prevention and growth promotion” or it must prohibit “the routine use of antibiotics in classes used in human medicine.”
- Does the policy apply to all types of meat? This data comes from reported information regarding purchased meat, including beef, pork, chicken and turkey.
- What is the estimated availability of meat produced without routine antibiotics?
- Third party audits: Does the company work with third-party auditors to confirm that it is maintaining standards?
- Policy online: Does the company publish its antibiotic use policy online?
- Responded to survey: Did the company respond to the study’s survey?
Each restaurant could score up to 36 points, but for the most part their report cards don’t look good. The big winners are Chipotle and Panera Bread, although the recent E. coli outbreak at Chipotle restaurants is a concern (maybe we should give them a few weeks to get that sorted out). In terms of antibiotic use policy though, these two restaurants are the A players. Right behind them coming in with a grade B is Chick-fil-A.
Dunkin’ Donuts lost points in the “availability of meat produced without routine antibiotics” and “third party audits” categories, bringing them down to a C along with McDonald’s, who scored marginally in most categories. The following restaurants earned an F for their nonexistent antibiotic policies, but scored at least a few points here and there in certain categories:
- Burger King
- Domino’s Pizza
- Starbucks Coffee
If you’re rethinking where to purchase your next meal, keep reading, because the failures listed above aren’t even the worst. A surprising 14 restaurants scored a complete zero with no antibiotic use policy, no transparency and no plans for implementing a policy:
- Olive Garden
- Papa John’s Pizza
- Taco Bell
- Pizza Hut
- Jack in the Box
- Dairy Queen
- Outback Steakhouse
- Little Caesars Pizza
So what does this mean for the average consumer? If we choose to eat at some of these restaurants, there’s no guarantee that we won’t be consuming a ton of extra antibiotics while noshing on our favorite burger. It’s as simple as that, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
“Top U.S. restaurant chains have a unique opportunity and responsibility to help tackle the antibiotic resistance crisis by using their considerable purchasing power to shift promotion towards meat and poultry raised without the routine use of antibiotics,” the report says. While this is certainly true, we too can use our purchasing power to effect change. Remember, money talks, so where we choose to spend ours tells restaurants and the meat industry a lot. We hope that together, restaurants and consumers can change how the meat industry works.
Are you surprised to see some of the restaurants on this list?
Megan Winkler is an author, historian, Neurosculpting® meditation coach, certified nutritional consultant and DIY diva. When she’s not writing or teaching a class, Megan can be found in the water, on a yoga mat, learning a new instrument or singing karaoke. Her passion for a healthy mind-body-spirit relationship motivates her to explore all the natural world has to offer.