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Fast food plans to slow down antibiotic use

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Fast food giant McDonald’s has recently announced that it aims to serve up more antibiotic-free meat at its restaurants around the world.

McDonald’s has said that from 2018 it will begin implementing a new chicken antibiotics policy in markets around the world, which will require the elimination of antibiotics defined by the WHO as Highest Priority Critically Important (“HPCIA”) to human medicine. 

This plan includes Australia. McDonald’s estimate that each year it purchases 21.4 million kilos of Australian chicken.

The world’s largest burger chain will also work toward limiting the use in cattle and pigs of antibiotics important to human medicine, a significant move because McDonald’s is such a significant purchaser of beef and pork.

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses and parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it.

As a result, standard medical treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others. Resistance to current antimicrobials is increasing faster than the development of new drugs, and so effective treatments cannot keep pace. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes AMR as a looming crisis in which common and treatable infections will become life threatening.

More than 1,000 cases of almost-untreatable superbugs were reported in Australia in the 12 months to March this year.

For the first time, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has tracked dangerous bacteria resistant to the last line of antibiotics.

Speaking to SKY News earlier this year, AMA Vice President Dr Tony Bartone said: “The over-prescription of antibiotics is a problem because, world-wide, we’ve seen the emergence of what we call anti-microbial resistance – that is, resistance by bacteria to antibiotics, life-saving antibiotics in the past.

“Now with this emerging resistance, it’s becoming more and more difficult to treat these resistant bacteria, and we’ve all got a role to play in trying to reduce that incidence and that spread.”

In April 2014, WHO released its new global report, Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance, which states ‘… this serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect everyone.’

The Australian Government and other international governments have already identified antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a high-priority issue.