NEW DELHI: The next time you eat at a fast food chain like McDonald’s, Dominos, Subway, Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, you could be party to releasing multi-drug resistant microbes into the atmosphere.
Strange though it sounds, a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows that fast food giants, especially foreign multinationals, have adopted double standards with regard to antibiotic use in meat production.
While the MNCs have detailed action plans in place for the reduction or abolition of antibiotics for non-therapeutic uses in meat production in the US and other European countries, they do not have any such regulations in India. “Fast food MNCs have adopted double standards. They do not seem to care about the Indian consumer and are not keen to cut down on their contribution to the rising anti-microbial resistance (AMR) in this country,” CSE’s deputy director Chandra Bhushan said.
Antibiotics are often used to artificially speed up the growth of animals for meat. They are mixed with the animal’s feed to reduce cost of rearing them. This leads to microbes becoming resistant to the drugs.
The CSE, as part of its study, sent a questionnaire to 11 international and three Indian fast food chains over their policies on the use of antibiotics in meat production. Only four of the international brands — Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Domino’s and Burger King -- and one Indian firm responded.
“Most of these, including McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, sell chicken-based food across the country. While some others shared their practices of sourcing and testing, they did not specify any timelines by which they planned to eliminate antibiotic misuse,” Amit Khurana, head of CSE’s food safety and toxins programme said.
None of the companies that responded had a plan to tackle the problem in India.
In its response, Subway said the company’s global policy is that antibiotics can be used to treat, control and prevent disease, but they may not be used for speeding growth of farm animals. “We recognise that antibiotics are a critical tool for keeping animals healthy and that they should be used responsibly to preserve their effectiveness in veterinary and human medicine. Nevertheless, we and our suppliers believe there is room for improvement, and as such are working to reduce and, over time, eliminate their use,” country director, South Asia, Ranjit Talwar said in an email. However, he did not specify the timeline.
The CSE recommends an aggressive, time-bound and India-specific action plan to completely eliminate the use of antibiotics in the production of all kind of meat – chicken, fish and lamb. Also, the study recommends that big institutional buyers such as hotels, hospitals, airlines and railways should develop policies to procure meat raised without routine use of antibiotics.
McDonald’s, Domino’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Taco Bell, Chili’s, KFC and Subway
Café Coffee Day, Barista and Nirula’s
- Eliminated use of antibiotics in the US in 2016
- Plans to eliminate antibiotic use in Japan, Canada, Brazil in 2018
- Cut-off date for Australia, Russia, Europe is 2019, Jan 2027 for China
- India does not feature on the list
Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell
- March 2017 for Pizza Hut in the US
- 2018-end for KFC in the US
- 2017 for Taco Bell in the US
- No commitment for India
- Eliminate routine use of antibiotics in the US by 2020
- India not on list
- Eliminate use of medically important antibiotics by 2017 in the US
- India ignored completely
- No antibiotic use in the US after 2018
- No time-bound plan for India