While McDonald’s might not be considered one of the healthiest eateries in the world, the fast food chain is doing one thing that could have a big impact on the rest of the food industry.
Within the next two years, McDonald’s plans to make sure that its 14,000 American restaurants will serve chicken raised without most antibiotics.
“McDonald’s announcement is a big public health victory in the battle against antibiotic resistance,” said Gail Hansen of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ antibiotic resistance project. (Ref. 1)
The new is important because the additives in our foods have been linked to a host of different problems, not only early puberty in girls thanks to growth hormones, but also antibiotic resistance caused in part by antibiotic-raised meats.
The additives – along with our overuse of antibacterial products in the mistaken belief that we’re doing something good - have caused drug-resistant strains of bacteria that have survived the onslaught of antibiotics and have mutated, creating new superbugs that can’t be treated with the antibiotics we now have available.
The fewer “hidden” antibiotics that bacteria encounter, causing them to mutate – especially those found in our food – the fewer strains of superbugs we will be likely to have to battle in coming years.
“This is really a big deal,” said Maryn McKenna, author of the book “Superbug,” in an interview with NPR. “And anytime you talk about something that McDonalds does, it means that it is a buyer really at the top of the market. And it is therefore very likely that whatever they do is going to set a model. And that is something that people have been wanting the meat industry to move toward for decades now.” (Ref. 2)
McDonald’s announced in March that it would stop purchasing chicken from companies that used human antibiotics, meaning that its popular McNuggets – a favorite with kids and a mainstay of the Happy Meal - will now be sold with fewer antibiotics in the meat. (Ref. 3)
Antibiotics have been used in farm animals for decades in order to prevent illness – and to avoid a revisiting of the meat packing industry horrors of the Upton Sinclair book “The Jungle” – but in the same way the antibiotic treatment has been disrupting the bacteria of the gut that protect animals’ immune system, the same could be happening to humans. (Ref. 4)
Even more troubling, studies have shown that the bacteria in the gut of thin people is different to the bacteria found in the guts of obese people, and while the correlation has not been scientifically determined, it is not so farfetched to think that the antibiotic treatment has the potential to play a role in our rising obesity crisis as well. (Ref. 5)
McDonald’s also announced that it will sell milk free from growth hormones at its stores, meeting another big customer demand, although it probably comes too late to restore normal puberty. (Ref. 2)
Why it matters
According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two million Americans each year become infected with bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics – often in hospitals. (Ref. 3)
Of those, close to 23,000 people die from the mutant infections, since there are no drugs on the market to treat them.
Much of the blame, public health officials say, lies with the meat industry, which uses 80 percent of all the antibiotics in the United States.
The antibiotics we consume at dinner – coupled with the ones we have been taking ever since World War II – will naturally wipe out some unwanted bacteria, but not all. The bacteria that survive the attack from the antibiotics are rendered stronger, essentially becoming little super bugs that are in some cases completely immune to antibiotics.
The problem has become so bad that according to a 2014 report from the World Health Organization, the inability of antibiotics to treat everything from staph infections to tuberculosis could eventually mean “an end to modern medicine as we know it,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general. “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.” (Ref. 3)
The trouble with antibiotics
And the creation of super bugs is not the only problem associated with antibiotics.
While asking our doctors for a prescription is a smart move when we develop an infection, there are times when parents demanding antibiotics because their kids have a cold should probably be sent away with a box of tissues and some ‘get better soon’ wishes.
Antibiotics not only kill out the unwanted infection, they also kill the good bacteria that help keep our digestive tract – where the majority of our immune system lives – working properly. Antibiotics can leave a host of other health problems in their wake, including illnesses from a compromised immune system as well as low levels of serotonin that can negatively impact our mood.
So, what if you really need an antibiotic to combat an infection from a cat bite, an open surgical site or a bladder or kidney concern?
It is important to counteract any antibiotic you take with support for the essential good bacteria in your digestive tract.
Tips to fight antibiotic backlash
While eating yogurt with live active cultures is one way to help build up your immune system after an antibiotic, our Xtend-Life Kiwi-Klenz offers many more benefits, including prebiotics to help support your body’s natural ability to reproduce lost probiotics quickly.
With the right probiotics going to work inside your digestive tract, your immune system will be able to better resist infections, potentially preventing the need for another cycle of antibiotics, while your body is better able to absorb the nutrients you need to stay healthy.