Email campaign asks McDonald's to take U.S. antibiotic curbs global

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A charity looking to fight the rise of dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria on Thursday asked the public to help convince McDonald’s restaurants around the world to stop serving meat and milk from animals raised with routine use of medically important antibiotics.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

A week after the world's biggest fast-food company took that step with poultry at its U.S. restaurants, U.K.-based ShareAction launched an online campaign enabling people to email McDonald's Corp MCD.N CEO Steve Easterbrook.

The group, which promotes socially responsible investing, wants Easterbrook to prohibit the use of antibiotics important to human medicine in McDonald’s global chicken, beef, pork and dairy supply chains, for purposes other than disease treatment or non-routine control of veterinarian-diagnosed illness.

“We hope this action will encourage McDonald’s to supersize their ambition,” ShareAction Chief Executive Catherine Howarth said.

Scientists have warned that regular use of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent illness in healthy farms animals contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbug” infections, which kill at least 23,000 Americans each year and pose a significant threat to global health.

McDonald’s referred Reuters to an earlier statement that said it was premature to set a timeline for curbing antibiotic use in meats other than chicken, due to varying agricultural practices and regulations around the world.

“We continue to regularly review this issue,” that statement said.

Rival Wendy's Co WEN.O told Reuters last week that by next year, it would stop using chickens raised with antibiotics important to human health. It also said it would set specific goals for pork and beef production in 2017.

Meanwhile, Yum Brands Inc's YUM.N KFC fried-chicken chain is under fire for a policy that critics say effectively allows for routine use of antibiotics by its chicken suppliers.

More than 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States and half of those used in the United Kingdom are given to livestock, ShareAction said.

In April, an investor coalition with about $1 trillion under management, led by ShareAction and the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) Initiative, pressed McDonald’s and nine other large food companies to set timelines for stopping the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics important to human health in their supply chains.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio