McDonald's has just gone global with its commitment to serve chicken free from antibiotics that are critically important to human health. Building on a similar phase-out in its US chicken supply in 2016, the company will ban critical antibiotic use from sourced chicken in a handful of high-income countries and Brazil in 2018, expanding to a longer list of “designated markets” by 2027. That's evidence of both the potential to reduce global antibiotic use in livestock and the vital role consumers can play in speeding progress.
CGD Policy Blogs
Without global action, by 2050 there could be as many as 10 million antimicrobial resistance-related deaths each year. An important—and often overlooked—part of the problem is the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals. CGD recently convened a roundtable discussion with technical experts to discuss possible ways to strengthen global cooperation to address livestock’s contribution to AMR. Drawing on that productive discussion, we outline steps that could help make inroads into the problem.
An Ambitious Goal for International Cooperation in 2017: A Global Treaty to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
Earlier this month, evidence emerged that a Nevada woman who died last September had contracted a superbug resistant to all 26 available antibiotics, including colistin, the drug of last resort. If left unchecked, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could cause up to 10 million deaths a year by 2050 with a cumulative loss of $100 trillion to the global economy. The misuse of antibiotics in human medicine allows bacteria to evolve resistance to many life-saving drugs. But their excessive and inappropriate use in farm animals—which consume 70-80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States—is another key factor accelerating drug resistance globally.
Most antibiotics around the world today are fed to farm animals to promote growth and prevent diseases fostered by crowded conditions on factory farms. There is an urgent need to find alternatives to keep animals healthy, and preserve crucial antibiotics for human health. One way to do that would be to create an international treaty not to use antibiotics in livestock feed — and probiotics, like those found in yogurt, may be a stepping stone toward that goal.