PhotoMcDonald’s has unveiled its plans to reduce the use of antibiotics in its beef. The fast food chain said Tuesday that it will take two years to decide how much of the antibiotics that are important to human health it can cut from its beef supply.

Ultimately, McDonald’s is aiming to address concerns about the overuse of antibiotics. The World Health Organization (WHO), the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all stated that they consider antibiotic resistance a threat to public health.

In October, a study revealed that most burger chains in the U.S. earn scores of “F” when it comes to their antibiotic policies.

Public health threat

McDonald’s now says it will take steps to “measure and understand” the use of antibiotics in 10 of its largest markets and strive to reduce their use by the end of 2020. The chain says it will begin reporting progress in achieving its goal to curb antibiotic use in 2022.

“McDonald’s iconic position and the fact that they’re the largest single global purchaser of beef make it hugely important,” said David Wallinga, a senior health adviser for the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.

Overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals has been fueling antibiotic resistance and contributing to growing problems with drug-resistant "superbugs" that can't be easily treated, according to the World Health Organization.

In August, the FDA pledged to “launch some new programs” to combat the overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry.

“For all of these reasons, it’s critical that we implement good antimicrobial stewardship practices in human healthcare and veterinary settings,” the FDA’s Scott Gottlieb said. “We must continue to take new steps to slow the development of resistance and extend the usefulness of these lifesaving drugs.”

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