SAN ANTONIO – As more fast food and chain restaurants beef up their pledge to limit or eliminate antibiotics in the production of the meat and poultry they serve, Consumer Reports issued a scorecard on their progress.
More than half of the 25 largest chains now have antibiotics policies in place, nearly triple what it was three years ago.
Why is that important? Although antibiotics can be helpful for treating sick animals used for food, there are concerns about overuse.
"Overuse is really a big threat to public health. It can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and that can make infections in humans really difficult to treat," said Julia Calderone, Consumer Reports' health editor.
All of the progress at chain restaurants is due to changes in chicken policies. "No-antibiotic" beef and pork is still very limited.
Consumer Reports issued a scorecard of popular eateries.
Panera Bread and Chipotle came out ahead because nearly all of their meat and poultry is raised without antibiotics. Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell, Subway and Wendy's earned Bs and Cs. KFC improved with a B-minus and McDonald's got a C-plus.
KFC officials said the chain is committed to serving chicken raised without antibiotics, but those changes won't be implemented for a while. All of the chicken served at McDonald's has been raised without medically important antibiotics, but the company has made no progress on its beef and pork.
"We're definitely noticing a shift," Calderone said. "Consumers are becoming more aware of the potential dangers of overusing antibiotics."
Some big restaurants are slower to make the shift. Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, among others, pulled in Ds, and 11 restaurants, including Applebee's, Chili's, Dairy Queen and Olive Garden, failed Consumer Reports' scorecard on account of having policies at all.
Several smaller chains are making progress. For example, all of the chicken served at Dickey's BBQ is no-antibiotic, as is all of the beef, pork and poultry served at Cheesecake Factory.