McDonald’s storm over antibiotics in its beef: Burger giant faces showdown with investors who say it has broken a promise to fight health fears

  • Four years ago, the Burger giant promised to publish plans to reduce drug use
  • It is unlikely the investor alliance is preparing to challenge the firm at its annual meeting
  • Trinity College, Cambridge, holds McDonald’s shares through its fund

McDonald’s fast food chain is under fire for its dependence on antibiotics used in beef farming, which, critics warn, is contributing to the public health crisis.

The hamburger giant four years ago promised to publish plans to reduce drug use amid fears that the practice is threatening millions of lives. However, campaign participants say the campaign has not yet kept its promises.

Now an unlikely investor alliance led by Trinity College, Cambridge and legendary corporate raider Carl Aicon – Gordon Huck’s inspiration in the Wall Street movie – is gearing up to challenge the firm at its annual meeting later this month.

Row: McDonald’s is one of the world’s largest buyers of beef, and its impact on antibiotic use in intensive farming around the world is significant

McDonald’s is one of the world’s largest buyers of beef, and its impact on antibiotic use in intensive farming around the world is significant. It says it seeks to “reduce overall” drug use.

There is growing evidence that excessive consumption of antibiotics promotes the growth of drug-resistant superbugs. Trinity College owns stakes in the company through its £ 1.9 billion fund. She filed a petition to force McDonald’s to disclose the costs to the environment and public health due to the continued use of antibiotics in meat production.

The proposal says that antimicrobial resistance (UPR) “poses a systemic global threat to public health and the economy.” Two-thirds of the antibiotics used worldwide are fed to farm animals.

Other major investors – including Legal & General Investment Management, which is also a shareholder in McDonald’s – have also publicly acknowledged the threat to AMR. The pension fund giant, which voted for a similar decision last year, said in a recent report that AMR could become the next global health event, and the financial impact could be significant.

The World Bank warns that antibiotic resistance could lead to ten million deaths a year by 2050 if no more is done to combat drug-resistant superbugs. The economic consequences could be as severe as the 2008 financial crisis, the report said.

The threat posed by these superbugs may have been underestimated. A study in the medical journal The Lancet recently revised the number of deaths related to AMR in 2019 to at least 1.2 million against previous estimates of 700,000 deaths.

The Trinity movement says: “These horrific figures characterize a world in which conventional medical procedures such as cesarean section, knee arthroplasty, chemotherapy and organ transplantation have a significantly increased risk of incurable fatal infection.”

The college, which is headed by AMR Dame Special Representative Sally Davis, received an incentive when his proposal received support from billionaire investor and activist Karl Aikan.

He is behind a separate decision to appoint two directors to the company’s board in an attempt to hold her accountable for promising to improve the treatment of pigs.

The 86-year-old Aikan focuses on the use of a “pregnancy stall” – cells used by pork producers to keep pregnant pigs. This increases the number of animals that can be kept in a confined space. Animal rights activists complain that sows are trapped so tightly that they can’t even turn around.

The Trinity motion notes: “Pigs can survive in such grotesquely cramped conditions only if they are filled with antibiotics.”

McDonald’s continues to use vendors that use kiosks, despite the fact that ten years ago they promised to eliminate them by 2022. Pregnancy boxes have been banned in the UK since 1999.

Aikan’s recent interest in animal welfare is linked to his vegetarian daughter, Michelle Aikan Nevin, who worked with the United States Humane Society.

McDonald’s insists it has made a “commitment and progress throughout its global supply chain”, adding: “We are involved in global partnerships throughout our supply chain to collect data on antibiotic use, helping to inform the development and implementation of responsible policies. the use of antibiotics for chicken, beef and pork. ‘

He rejected Trinity College’s offer, saying it was committed to “a general reduction in medically important antibiotics, if necessary and measurable.”

McDonald’s has rejected Icahn’s claims, saying that supplying all its pork to suppliers who never use fruit boxes is “completely unfeasible” because such companies represent a small portion of the pork.

A company spokesman described Aikan’s intervention as an “unpleasant distortion” and a “subtle veiled attempt to gain relevance.”

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