THE GUARDIAN – Suppliers of beef to McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Walmart are sourcing meat from US farms that use antibiotics linked to the spread of dangerous superbugs, an investigation has found.
Unpublished US government records obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian show farms producing beef for meat packing firms Cargill, JBS, and Green Bay are risking public health by still using antibiotics classed as the “highest priority critically important” to human health (HP-CIAs).
Such drugs are so essential to human medicine that their use in livestock farming should be stopped, the World Health Organization has warned.
HP-CIAs are often the last line or one of limited treatments available for serious bacterial infections in humans, it has said. The overuse of such antibiotics means they can become less effective.
The findings have prompted condemnation from public health experts and campaigners.
“Cattle suppliers to Cargill, which sells beef to McDonald’s, were found to have at least five types of antibiotics in use.”
There is no ban on using antibiotics for treatment or to prevent disease, although farmers now need a veterinary prescription for many medically important antibiotics that were previously available over-the-counter and added to water and feed.
There is a ban in the US on using antibiotics for growth promotion, which has been in place since 2017.
But many US cattle farmers still routinely use antibiotics often for months on end. Their use – and overuse – risks enabling bacteria to develop resistance, meaning the drugs stop working.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the gravest global public health threats. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is responsible for more than 35,000 deaths in the US each year, and 1.3 million globally.
Despite the risks, residues of numerous HP-CIAs and other antibiotics were present in many of the US’s beef supply chains between 2017 and 2022, testing by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), part of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), showed …
“The spread of drug-resistant bacteria in the environment represents a huge public health challenge.”