McDonald’s Removing Preservatives From Some Items; Nuggets Now 100% Antibiotics-Free

Image courtesy of Morton Fox

Two decades ago, McDonald’s only real competition was other fast food burger joints, and maybe the local greasy spoon diner. Now, it not only has to stave off the new generation of better burger joints, many of its longtime competitors have begun using fresher ingredients. Today, the nation’s largest non-Subway fast food chain announced revisions to its menu, and a positive update on its plan to phase out antibiotics in the chicken it serves.

This morning, McDonald’s announced a handful of updates to its menu. These include:

• Removing artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, pork sausage patties, omelet-style eggs (served on McGriddles, Bagel and Biscuit breakfast sandwiches), and scrambled eggs (served in breakfast platters).

• Introducing new buns without high fructose corn syrup, eventually replacing the buns you see on Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken sandwiches. McDonald’s notes that the Artisan roll it introduced in 2015 has never contained HFCS.

• Completing its transition to 100% antibiotic-free chicken a year ahead of schedule.

This last one is particularly important, as the overuse of antibiotics in farms animals — accounting for around 75% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. — is believed to be connected to the creation of drug-resistant bacteria.

More than 2 million Americans are infected with resistant pathogens each year, and around 20-25% of those are from food-borne bacteria.

Until the last few years, calls for restaurant chains to switch to antibiotic-free meat were often responded to with claims that drug-free chickens just cost too much. However, the decision by McDonald’s and others — including Perdue and Tyson — to significantly reduce the use of antibiotics means that more chickens are being raised without these vitally important drugs. As drug-free increasingly becomes the standard, the birds won’t be priced as some luxury item for the privileged few.

“By using a USDA-verified process to ensure consistency, transparency, and accountability, McDonald’s serves as a good example for other companies looking to make meaningful changes that consumers can trust,” explains Karin Holzer, a food animal expert with the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“The reckless overuse of these critical medications on healthy livestock is contributing to our antibiotics resistance crisis,” adds Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union. “McDonald’s has shown that it’s possible to eliminate this practice on a large scale while still meeting its supply needs. We urge Kentucky Fried Chicken and other fast food restaurants to follow McDonald’s lead and make the same commitment to public health.”

Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of the Food and Technology program at Friends of the Earth, agrees.

“It’s time for all fast and casual restaurants to address the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance by working with their meat and poultry suppliers to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics and improve overall conditions in U.S. meat production,” says Hamerschlag.