Sandwich behemoth Subway is being pressured to ditch antibiotics.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth released a report today that grades the nation's top 25 fast food and fast casual chains on their efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics in their meat supply, and the results are mostly pretty grim: 20 of the 25 received a big fat "F," including Subway.
Chipotle and Panera earned an "A" grade
Unsurprisingly, Chipotle came out ahead of the pack as one of only two restaurants to earn an "A" grade. The burrito chain has been vocal about serving antibiotic-free pork in its restaurants since 2000, although the much-publicized recent carnitas shortage is causing many to wonder if producers will be able to keep up with the demand for more natural meat.
Antibiotics have been widely used in agricultural production for decades — not just to prevent and treat disease and infection, but also because they help animals grow faster on less feed. 30 million pounds of antibiotics are purchased by agricultural producers each year, but organizations like the CDC and the FDA have stated for years that the widespread use of such drugs in the food supply chain could constitute a public health risk due to the potential of antibiotic resistance.
Panera also got an "A" for the majority of its meat being produced without antibiotics; the only others to nab a passing grade were Chick-fil-A, Dunkin' Donuts, and McDonald's. (The latter announced it was moving to stop serving chicken produced with the use of "human" antibiotics last spring — a move that, given the chain's incredible purchasing power, is sure to have a dramatic effect on the U.S. poultry industry.)
Companies that received a failing grade along with Subway include Starbucks, Wendy's, Burger King, and Taco Bell, just to name a few.
Will this inspire Subway to action?
Accompanying FoE's report is a letter addressed to "CEOs of Top Restaurant Chains" urging them to "commit to serving meat and poultry in [their] restaurants that is raised without the routine use of antibiotics"; it's signed by more than 100 organizations ranging from the Center for Food Safety to Slow Food USA. As the world's largest restaurant chain with more than 34,000 locations, it's no surprise that Subway is especially being singled out: FoE is encouraging consumers to petition the sandwich chain "to adopt a clear policy restricting the routine use of antibiotics in its supply chain."
Of course, it's not the first time Subway has come under public pressure to remove undesirable ingredients from its food: Last year the chain removed the so-called "yoga mat chemical" from its bread after a petition started by blog FoodBabe garnered some 65,000 signatures. The chain has also pledged to remove all artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives from its North American menu by 2017. With its "Eat Fresh" slogan, Subway has long touted itself as a healthier option to fast food burgers and fries — but now that consumers are becoming increasingly more concerned about where their food comes from, will the world's biggest restaurant chain be able to keep up with smaller, more nimble companies like Chipotle?