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McDonald's, Walmart, And Taco Bell Found To Be Sourcing Meat With Harmful Antibiotics

Mashed 11/24/2022 Katy Canada
Hand wearing glove holding syringe in front of cows © Studio Romantic/Shutterstock Hand wearing glove holding syringe in front of cows

The use of antibiotics is nothing new in the production of meat in the United States, according to the National Library of Medicine. These compounds help manage the health of livestock in farm settings. They also can make livestock grow bigger and lead to longer survival, per Piedmont.

But experts warn against the overuse of antibiotics. Suppliers that treat their animals with antibiotics have been connected to the dissemination of "superbugs," the CDC reported. That's because some humans become resistant to certain antibiotics after prolonged exposure to them through the foods they eat. Experts consider this growing tolerance for antibiotic treatments a "public health crisis."

As consumers become aware of the long-term risks of consuming meats and other foods that are treated with antibiotics, the demand for antibiotic-free meat has risen, Persistence Market Research explained. Between 2022 and 2032, the worldwide market for meat that's not treated with antibiotics is expected to balloon by 11.6%. The current market value for this category is estimated at more than $148 billion.

Recently, unpublished data from the U.S. government revealed that certain well-known meat companies have been applying antibiotics to their livestock that are "highest priority critically important to human health," posing a risk for superbugs to spread, according to the The Guardian.

Unpublished Data Outs Popular Fast Food Chains For Antibiotic Use

Shoppers browsing meat in Walmart store © Bloomberg/Getty Images Shoppers browsing meat in Walmart store

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian obtained unpublished records from the U.S. government, which revealed Cargill, JBS, and Green Bay meat farms were using these substances — which the World Health Organization deems "so essential to human medicine that their use in livestock farming should be stopped" — to treat their animals. These companies supply meat for McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Walmart.

Public health officials and advocates have criticized these companies and asserted that their use of "highest priority" antibiotics poses a major public safety risk. Many experts and consumers are calling for companies like McDonald's to stop using antibiotics in their beef. That's because the overconsumption of antibiotics causes humans to develop resistance to their protective qualities. Regulation of antibiotic treatment in livestock is tricky because treating to promote growth is not allowed, but treating for illnesses is permitted.

The CDC estimates that 35,000 Americans die every year because their bodies resist antibiotics. And, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections crop up in the U.S. every year, which has been linked to the agricultural use of antibiotics. McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Walmart did not directly address the findings when contacted by The Guardian. Though each has "goals" to reduce their use of antibiotics that are necessary for human health, they have not publicized plans to stop using them altogether.

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