In response to a letter signed by more than 50 food safety advocacy groups, fast food chain In-N-Out released a statement saying it is committed to serving “beef that is not raised with antibiotics important to human medicine.”
Advocacy groups interpreted the statement as an encouraging turnaround from the company’s past policies, in which In-N-Out representatives said they supported the Food and Drug Administration’s often-contested guidelines that permit a wide range of antibiotic use.
Scientific studies have shown that raising cattle and chicken that feed on meals doused with antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans, creating so-called “superbugs” and making many illnesses harder to treat.
However, the FDA has allowed antibiotic use in livestock for 40 years, and it is an approved practice by the Animal Health Institute, despite those studies. Farms that don’t use antibiotic treatment for livestock stand at a greater risk for producing unhealthy food supplies, the administration has previously stated.
To negotiate between antibiotic resistance and unhealthy food sources, many organizations have pressured restaurants like In-N-Out to stop using antibiotics commonly used to treat human conditions.
Groups such as Friends of the Earth, the Center for Food Safety and CALPIRG Education Fund had been critical of In-N-Out’s stance toward food sourcing, but it commended the company’s recent pivot.
“In-N-Out Burger's recent statement is an important step forward,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth. “Now, the company needs to provide the public with a timeline showing that it’s serious about eliminating everyday use of antibiotics in its beef production."
Several other chain restaurants, including Panera Bread, Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle have pledged to use meet that hasn’t been treated with antibiotics, earning it positive rankings with Consumer Reports and other organizations.
Last October in California, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that laid forth more stringent restrictions for the use of antibiotics in livestock production. That bill, which bans antibiotics used to fatten animals and those not used for disease prevention, will go into effect in 2018.