Subway plans to stop serving meat from animals that have been given human antibiotics, making it the latest major food chain to take a stand on the growing issue of antibiotic resistance. All of Subway's US restaurants will phase out chicken treated with human antibiotics by the end of next year; turkey will be phased out within the following year or so, and pork and beef are expected to be phased out by 2025. "A change like this will take some time, particularly since the supply of beef raised without antibiotics in the US is extremely limited and cattle take significantly longer to raise," says Dennis Clabby, an executive at IPC, a Subway franchisee organization. "But, we are working diligently with our suppliers to make it happen."
The "largest" restaurant commitment to remove human antibiotics
No plans were announced for Subway restaurants outside of the US, but this still represents an enormous restaurant chain going mostly human antibiotics free. Subway has over 27,000 restaurants in the US, which the chain claims makes its decision "the largest [commitment] of its kind in the restaurant industry." Subway is by no means the first major food chain to make this choice, however. McDonalds said earlier this year that its US locations would phase our chicken treated with human antibiotics by 2017, and Chick-fil-A plans to make the transition in all of its locations by 2019. But unlike Subway, McDonald's doesn't appear to have made any commitments when it comes to other meats.
The widespread treatment of farm animals with antibiotics — particularly with ones important to human health — has led to concerns that some antibiotics could become less effective, if not useless. The US Food and Drug Administration has warned that continued overuse of these antibiotics could lead to the development of bacteria that can no longer be fought with existing treatments, which poses some obvious human health risks. The agency is also working to cut down on the number of human-important antibiotics used in treating animals, and commitments from major food providers to only use meat raised without them could also lead to a major dip in usage. In addition to food chains, food suppliers like Tyson are now working to remove human antibiotics from their supplies as well.