PhotoIt's not often that Consumers Union praises a fast food company, but the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports says McDonald's deserves a pat on the back for meeting its pledge to stop selling chicken that had been given medically important antibiotics.

In fact, the group says the fast food company met its commitment sooner than it had promised.

In praising McDonald's, Consumers Union called on Yum Brands to take the same step, demanding that meat and poultry suppliers limit or discontinue antibiotics use. It says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that too much use of antibiotics makes the drugs less effective against bacteria.

'Reckless overuse'

“The reckless overuse of these critical medications on healthy livestock is contributing to our antibiotics resistance crisis,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union.

She said McDonald’s has proven that it’s possible to eliminate antibiotic use on a large scale without affecting supply.

“We urge Kentucky Fried Chicken and other fast food restaurants to follow McDonald’s lead and make the same commitment to public health,” she said.

McDonald’s is several months ahead of schedule. When it announced it would phase out antibiotics in its chicken, it promised to do so by March 2017. Chik-fil-A, which sells more chicken than any fast food chain, says it will stop sales of poultry raised on antibiotics by 2019.

Animals given 80% of U.S. antibiotics

Consumers Union says about 80% of all the antibiotics used in the U.S. are not consumed by humans but by animals. The drugs are used to make the animals grow faster, and also to help keep them free of disease. When humans consume the meat, they're getting some of the antibiotics.

The CDC is leading efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics, both by prescription and in livestock. The health agency says at least two million people a year in the U.S. become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Of those, it says at some 23,000 people die.

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