Fast food and football: who scores, who fumbles?

Media Contacts
Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, PIRG


ATLANTA — With Super Bowl LIII coming up Sunday, Americans have foods such as hamburgers and pizza on their minds — and many corporations (such as Budweiser) are touting their socially-responsible deeds in commercials.

But many corporate deeds go under the radar. In late January, two companies closely identified with football made big plays. One scored. One fumbled.

Aramark scores:

Aramark provides food/beverage or other services to nearly half the teams in the National Football League. Last week, the company reached an agreement with Environment America’s affiliated mutual fund company Green Century Capital Management on a plan to stop its role in deforestation. Aramark committed to implement its new deforestation plan by 2025.

Deforestation is accelerating, and it’s a major problem for wildlife and humanity,” said Environment America’s Senior Director of Conservation Steve Blackledge. “This commitment by Aramark means when you’re eating their concession food at the game, you can worry less about how your short-term happiness is leading to long-term repercussions for our environment.”

The conversion of forests to agricultural plantations is the primary cause of tropical deforestation, which is a leading contributor to climate change. Forest destruction contributes nearly the same amount of annual, global greenhouse-gas emissions as the entire transportation sector. Deforestation also poses a risk to the preservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of healthy ecosystems

Aramark agreed to develop and implement a deforestation policy that addresses “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” (NDPE) sourcing practices, including legal deforestation. In 2019, Aramark will perform a supply chain assessment to better understand its forest-related risks across all geographies within its supply chain.

Aramark also will complete its transition to 100% sustainably sourced soy and palm oil — which are in lots of foods — by only sourcing from suppliers certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by June 30, 2019. It agreed to enhance its transparency by providing regular and public updates on its no-deforestation progress, as well.

Domino’s fumbles:

Over the past several years, a majority of leading  national fast food and quick service chains have committed to only sourcing chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine, and now, McDonald’s is starting the same trend in beef sourcing with a corporate responsibility action to protect public health.

That’s why Domino’s Pizza’s actions this month are so confusing. Domino’s, one of the 10 largest fast food chains in the United States — and largest pizza chain in the world — has filed a challenge with the Securities and Exchange Commission against a shareholder resolution requesting the company to reduce the use of medically-important antibiotics used in the production of the beef and pork it sources. The company has already committed to reduce antibiotic use in its chicken supply chain.

“Domino’s is definitely not delivering when it comes to serving its public as responsibly as it should,” said U.S. PIRG Antibiotics Program Director Matt Wellington. “Superbugs often breed in factory farms and can spread to people, and if companies such as Domino’s don’t pressure meat producers to stop overusing antibiotics, they won’t change the practices that can fuel antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Nearly 70 percent of antibiotics important to fighting human infections are sold for use in food-producing animals.

Antibiotic resistance is a global public health crisis, according to the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the General Assembly of the United Nations. A major contributor to this crisis is the overuse of antibiotics in food-animal production.

The CDC estimates at least 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic resistant infections. A recent estimate suggests that number could be much higher, with more than 150,000 Americans dying from  antibiotic-resistant infections in 2010.

As fans across the world get ready to chow down this Super Sunday, they can decide which companies deserve cheers and which ones deserve boos.

Environment America is the national federation of statewide, citizen-based advocacy organizations working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.

U.S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups. PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

The Public Interest Network runs organizations committed to our vision of a better world, a set of core values, and a strategic approach to getting things done. It includes U.S. PIRG and Environment America.