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Report: 20 of the 25 leading fast food chains have failed to respond to a 'growing public health threat'

An alliance of consumer, health, and environmental groups have released a new report showing how the nation’s top 25 fast food companies by sales stack up on their policies regarding antibiotic use in their meat.

The results are dismal: The report gave 20 of the 25 companies failing grades for not effectively responding to a “growing public health threat by publicly adopting policies restricting routine antibiotic use” in meat.

Of those that passed, only Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill received an “A” grade. Chick-fil-A received a “B,” and McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Doughnuts received “C’s.”

These chains beat out the likes of Starbucks, Olive Garden, Taco Bell, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, who were among the many companies assigned big, fat “F’s” in the report:

Antibiotics reportFriends of the EarthFinal grades on top chain antibiotics and sourcing practices.

The “Chain Reaction” report and scorecard was assembled and released by the non-profit groups Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defence Council, Consumers Union, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Keep Antibiotics Working, and Center for Food Safety.

Their report arrives amid growing concern about antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a problem partially fuelled by the rampant use of antibiotics in cows, chickens, and other farm animals raised for food. Such concern has sparked the launch of the Obama administration’s five-year plan to combat antibiotic resistance, as well as the Food and Drug Administration’s new guidelines aiming to restrict antibiotic use in farm animal products, like meat and, that make it to our dinner plates.

After surveying each of the top 25 restaurant chains based on in-person, email, and traditional mail surveys — as well as public statements — the groups assigned grades to each company. They plan to perform this survey annually to measure improvements.

The five chains that passed have demonstrated that they are limiting the use of medically-necessary antibiotics, or that they completely prohibit antibiotic use altogether in the meat production process, according to the report.

The 20 that received failing grades, which represent the majority of the best-selling food chains in the US, haven’t showed that they are responding to this growing problem, the report stated.

“Consumers should be as concerned as the foremost infectious disease doctors are — which is very concerned,” David Wallinga, a senior health officer at the environmental nonprofit the National Resources Defence Council, who contributed to the report, told Time.

Antibiotic resistant “superbugs” have become one of the world’s most pressing public health concerns. An estimated two million people become infected with drug-resistant bacteria in the US each year. Of those, at least 23,000 die.

Most farm animals on the planet get antibiotics to fatten them up and protect them from illness. About 80% of the antibiotics sold in the US every year are for farm animals. Overuse of antibiotics on farms isn’t the only issue, but it’s a huge contributor to the growing threat of a post-antibiotic era: when even minor infections won’t be easily treatable with the drugs we have today.

Tech Insider contacted each of the companies or franchises included in the report for their responses. Keep scrolling to read the reactions that we’ve received so far.

Domino's Pizza -- 'F'

Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino's Pizza:

Our suppliers currently meet all USDA requirements and we don't purchase chicken or beef treated with the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. We rely on farmers and the veterinarians who support them to determine the best way to raise and treat their animals.

Panera Bread - 'A'

Sara Burnett, director of wellness and food policy at Panera Bread:

More than a decade ago we started serving chicken raised without antibiotics - ahead of the industry. We're glad to see that others have followed and proud to have extended our commitment to all of the chicken, ham, bacon, sausage and roasted turkey on our salads and sandwiches.

Chipotle -- 'A'

Chris Arnold, spokesperson for Chipotle:

We have served meat from animals raised without antibiotics for many years and do more of that than any other restaurant company, so naturally we are pleased to enjoy the highest available grade in this study. While others have made some small steps in a similar direction, the study shows there is more work do be done on this issue within the restaurant industry, and we hope others will follow our lead.

Chick-fil-A -- 'B'

Rob Dugas, vice president, supply chain, at Chick-fil-A:

Chick-fil-A was the first in the quick service restaurant industry to announce a commitment to 'No Antibiotics Ever' in its chicken supply back in 2014. This commitment is the most restrictive in the industry, with no antibiotics (including ionophores) to be administered at all within the chicken's lifespan.

Because chicken makes up 99% of our menu, Chick-fil-A is prioritising completely eliminating any antibiotic use in the poultry supply first. Because of this stringent requirement and our desire to have third-party verification of our supplier's processes, the switch will take some time.

We are happy to report that -- in addition to continuing to serve chicken that has always been 100% pure breast meat with no fillers, additives, hormones or steroids -- we have converted more than 20% of our poultry supply to our 'No Antibiotics Ever' standard and are on track to be fully transitioned by 2019. We also are committed to transparency throughout the process and are posting regular updates on our web site (http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Antibiotic-free), with another update scheduled for this fall.

Starbucks -- 'F'

Emily, Starbucks Media Relations Team:

In 2009, Starbucks established a buying preference in North America to use industry best practices for animal husbandry and processing for dairy, egg, and meat production. Last year, in consultation with key stakeholders, we expanded our animal welfare policy to include a focus on supporting responsible use of antibiotics to support animal health. Even though we purchase a limited amount of meat we are working with our suppliers to address concerns about antibiotic use and are looking to collaborate with others across our industry and in the NGO community to promote best practices on this issue. Learn more about Starbucks animal welfare policies here.

This full statement is also posted on our Newsroom here.

Dunkin' Doughnuts - 'F'

From a company representing the Dunkin' Doughnuts brand:

Dunkin' Brands is committed to the humane treatment of animals, and we believe in the transparency of our animal welfare practices. Our animal welfare policy prohibits suppliers from using antibiotics in healthy animals. Dunkin' Doughnuts has stringent food quality standards for all of our products that meet all requirements of the FDA and USDA complying with all laws, ordinances and regulations.

Keep checking back for more responses from fast food companies called out in the report. We'll be updating this story as we receive them.

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