This is one of those stories that's just a bit cringe-worthy. McDonald's is changing its policy about the sort of chicken it will drop in your lap at the drive-thru.
Over the next two years, McDonald's will require its suppliers to phase out antibiotics that are "important to human medicine."
Veterinary use of antibiotics is legal. However, as the rate of human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria increases, consumer advocates and public health experts have become more critical of the practice of routinely feeding antibiotics to chickens, cattle and pigs.
Scientists and public health experts say whenever an antibiotic is administered, it kills weaker bacteria and can enable the strongest to survive and multiply.
Frequent use of low-dose antibiotics, a practice used by some meat producers, can intensify that effect. The risk, they say, is that so-called superbugs might develop cross-resistance to critical, medically important antibiotics.
Superbugs are linked to an estimated 23,000 human deaths and 2 million illnesses every year in the United States, and up to $20 billion in direct healthcare costs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obviously anything that reduces the prospect of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in fast-food chicken is a good thing, as far as it goes. But they'll be replacing one antibiotic with another which means we'll still be on the receiving end of a food industry whose practices are such that their critters will croak if they're not laced with antibiotics. It's the same story with industrial cattle production in feed lots. The only way to keep those animals from infecting and killing off each other is to keep them medicated all the way to the abattoir.