Consumer campaign calls on Wendy’s to “hold the antibiotics” from its beef supply chain

Media Contacts
Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

New York: Consumer and public health advocacy organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund is calling on Wendy’s to stop serving beef raised with the routine use of antibiotics. The U.S. PIRG Education Fund and its partner groups are calling on the third-largest burger chain in the United States to follow the lead of its rival, McDonald’s, which recently announced a detailed antibiotics policy for its beef supply chain. The group held events in front of Wendy’s franchises in New York City and Chicago to announce the campaign.

“We can’t waste life-saving medicines to produce cheap beef. The cost to our health is too high, and Wendy’s can use its buying power to help move the beef industry away from overusing antibiotics,” said Matthew Wellington, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics Campaign Director.

A recent estimate suggests that up to 162,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant infections every year, making them the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Health experts, including the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics, warn that the routine use of antibiotics in animals that aren’t sick fuels drug-resistant bacteria.  

“The bulk of antibiotics sold in this country are for use in food production, and this usage is a major factor in the development of antibiotic resistance in the US,” said Dr. Ben Katz, a Chicago based infectious disease physician. “We are already preventing the overuse of antibiotics in human populations via antibiotic stewardship, should not the same be true for animals?”

Wendy’s no longer serves chicken raised with the use of medically important antibiotics, and it’s also taken modest steps to reduce use in its beef supply chain. The company currently sources about 20 percent of its beef from producers that have cut the use of one medically important antibiotic by 20 percent. That minor step forward earned the chain a D- on the Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition scorecard, which graded top burger chains on antibiotic use in their beef supply chains.

For the last four years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Antibiotics Off the Menu Coalition have been urging food companies to phase routine antibiotic use out of their meat supply chains. Their efforts have helped convince McDonald’s, Subway, KFC and more companies to address this critical public health threat.

“If Wendy’s ups the ante on reducing antibiotic use in its beef supply chain, it can help preserve our ability to treat life-threatening infections,” said Wellington. “Wendy’s likes to say it’s ‘deliciously different.’ Here’s a chance for the company to differentiate itself by being a leader in combating antibiotic resistance.”

Background info on antibiotic overuse on farms:

Nearly two-thirds of the medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are for use on food animals, and meat producers often use the drugs to compensate for unsanitary, overcrowded, and stressful living conditions. To keep antibiotics working, we need to limit their use to situations when animals are sick, or to control verified infectious disease outbreaks on the farm.