McDonald’s takes antibiotics in its beef by storm


McDonald’s storms over antibiotics in its beef: The burger giant faces a showdown with investors who say it broke a promise to tackle health fears

  • The burger giant pledged four years ago to release plans to cut its drug use
  • Activists say the company still hasn’t delivered on its promises
  • Unlikely alliance of investors preparing to challenge the company at its annual meeting

Fast food chain McDonald’s is being criticized for its reliance on antibiotics used in cattle farming which critics say is contributing to a public health crisis.

The burger giant pledged four years ago to publish plans to reduce its drug use, fearing the practice could endanger the lives of millions of people. However, campaigners say the company has still not delivered on its promises.

Now an unlikely alliance of investors led by Trinity College Cambridge and legendary corporate raider Carl Icahn – the inspiration for Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street – are gearing up to challenge the company at its annual meeting more later this month.

Line: McDonald’s is one of the biggest buyers of beef in the world and its influence on the use of antibiotics in intensive agriculture around the world is considerable

McDonald’s is one of the biggest buyers of beef in the world and its influence on the use of antibiotics in intensive agriculture around the world is considerable. He says he is committed to a “comprehensive reduction” in drug use.

There is growing evidence that overuse of antibiotics is fueling the rise of drug-resistant superbugs. Trinity College holds shares in the company through its £1.9 billion endowment fund. He filed a motion to force McDonald’s to disclose the environmental and public health costs of its continued use of antibiotics in its meat production.

The proposal states that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) “poses a systemic and global threat to public health and the economy”. Two thirds of the antibiotics used in the world are given to farm animals.

Other major investors – including Legal & General Investment Management, which is also a shareholder of McDonald’s – have also publicly acknowledged the threat from RAM. The pension fund giant, which voted in favor of a similar motion last year, said in a recent report that RAM could be the next global health event and the financial impact could be significant.

The World Bank has warned that antibiotic resistance could cause up to ten million deaths a year by 2050 unless more is done to tackle drug-resistant superbugs. The economic impact could be as severe as the 2008 financial crisis, he said.

The threat posed by these superbugs may have been underestimated. A study published in the medical journal The Lancet recently revised the number of AMR-related deaths in 2019 to at least 1.2 million, up from previous estimates of 700,000 deaths. The Trinity motion says: “These appalling numbers characterize a world in which common medical procedures such as C-sections, knee replacements, chemotherapy and organ transplants come with a massively increased risk of incurable fatal infection. .”

The college, which is led by RAM special envoy Dame Sally Davies, received a boost when its proposal won the backing of billionaire investor and activist Carl Icahn. He is behind a separate resolution to appoint two directors to the company’s board in a bid to hold him to account on a promise to improve the treatment of pigs.

Icahn, 86, focuses on the use of “gestation stalls” – cages used by pork producers to hold pregnant pigs.

This increases the number of animals that can be held in a limited space. Animal rights activists complain that the sows are so tightly confined they can’t even turn around.

Trinity’s motion notes: “Pigs cannot survive such grotesque cramped conditions unless they are inundated with antibiotics.

McDonald’s continues to use suppliers who employ the stalls despite promising a decade ago to phase them out by 2022. Gestation crates have been banned in the UK since 1999.

Icahn’s recent interest in animal welfare stems from his vegetarian daughter, Michelle Icahn Nevin, who worked with the Humane Society of the United States.

McDonald’s insists it has made ‘commitments and progress in its global supply chain’, adding: ‘We are engaged in global partnerships across our supply chain to collect data on the use of antibiotics helping to inform the development and implementation of responsible antibiotic use policies for chicken, beef and pork.

He rejected Trinity College’s proposal, saying he is committed to “the overall reduction of medically important antibiotics where appropriate and measurable”.

McDonald’s rejected Icahn’s claims, saying sourcing pork from suppliers who never use gestation crates is “completely impractical” because those companies represent a tiny fraction of the pork industry.

A company spokesperson described Icahn’s intervention as an “unpleasant contortion” and “a thinly veiled opportunistic attempt to gain relevance.”


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