If there is one thing Americans love more than reality TV and the Internet it’s fast food. Despite their long lasting popularity, fast food chains have had their share of controversies. Fortunately, McDonald’s has debunked the “pink slime” rumors, and it was also confirmed that there was never a finger found in a bowl of chili from Wendy’s. This means it’s safe to assume that all of the awful things we hear about fast food chains are just rumors, right? Not necessarily. In a recent report conducted by the Center for Food Safety on antibiotics in meat, twenty out of twenty-five restaurants received an “F”. So besides the creepy mascots, we should also be weary of the actual food being served at fast food chains.
While antibiotics are typically seen as beneficial, large doses can cause health problems, even among farm animals. Farmers will feed animals antibiotics because it causes them to grow larger in a shorter amount of time. This allows animals to produce more milk and meat, thus causing the animals to become more profitable. Despite the fact that antibiotics make it easy to produce large amounts of meat and dairy products in a shorter amount of time, the animals are suffering from the dangerous side effects of these drugs. The Center for Food Safety reports that “[antibiotics] have horrendous effects on the animals to which they are given, including linking ractopamine to hyper-aggression, rapid heart rates, and organ damage, and connecting zilpaterol to higher rates of mortality and sick or injured animals.” Aside from causing pain to the animals, it is also important to note that the overuse of antibiotics can also make livestock resistant to the drugs. This is a cause for concern because if animals become ill yet they are resistant to antibiotics, they cannot be treated and cannot be used for meat. As a result, the animals are forced to die a slow, painful death, and farmers will loose money because they cannot use the sick animals for profit.
To some, it may not seem like huge deal that animals can become resistant to antibiotics. However, this is an issue that should be addressed because it can have a negative impact on humans. Like livestock, humans can develop a resistance to antibiotics as well. The Center for Disease control claims, “at least 2 million Americans contract antibiotic-resistant infections every year, and that 23,000 die as a result.” By frequently consuming fast food products that have a high amount of antibiotics in them, we are gradually building a tolerance to antibiotics.
Even if you feel like you do not get sick that often, consuming meat that contains high levels of antibiotics can still cause internal damage. Dr. Martin Blaser, a physician and researcher at NYU, explains that if a person is prescribed an antibiotic such as penicillin, “that penicillin will act against the strep, but it will also act against all the other, helpful bacteria that make up your body’s microbiome. That’s what I mean by collateral damage. If you were after a terrorist, you could attack with a laser or nuke the village. Right now we’re nuking the village.” This is important to remember if you eat fast food on a regular basis. When we continue to add unnecessary antibiotics to our bodies, these antibiotics are destroying the bacteria that our body needs to function properly.
For us Millenials, fast food is a way of life because it comes in handy when we have a short lunch break or don’t feel like eating at our colleges’ dinning halls. The Center for Food Safety report is not meant to scare anyone away from eating out every now and then. Instead, the report should be used to understand which restaurants provide healthier, antibiotic-free meat. In this report card, Panera and Chipotle were both given A’s, Chick-fil-A was given a B, while McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts were given C’s. As for the rest of our favorite places? They scored an F and a week of detention. Well not really, but places such as Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, and Wendy’s were indeed given failing scores, and have not made plans to restrict antibiotic use. This is important to keep in mind the next time you’re feeling hungry when you are out and about. Eating fast food is almost inevitable in our society, but at least we can educate ourselves and eat at the healthier places. After all, we are what we eat!
This article was written by Kim Dilisio, a writer for dusk magazine.