Tim Hortons parent updates antibiotic policy for chicken

(Dave Bedard photo)

The parent company for the Tim Hortons and Burger King chains has tightened up its pledge to curb the use of antibiotics by its chicken suppliers.

Restaurant Brands International on Thursday released its first “Sustainability Report,” outlining its work during 2016 in support of “sustainable practices that promote positive change.”

Back in late December, Oakville, Ont.-based RBI announced its two chains would “eliminate the use of antibiotics deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘critically important’ to human medicine” from its chicken supply lines.

At that time, it also said it would “work with our supply chain partners to support and implement these changes” in the U.S. in 2017, and in Canada in 2018.

In Thursday’s report, the company reiterated it’s “committed to using chicken that is raised without the use of antibiotics important to human medicine as defined by the (WHO)” but instead said “we intend to meet this commitment in U.S. and Canada by the end of 2018.”

However, the company on Thursday also made clear it will follow the WHO’s fifth revision to its document, Critically Important Antimicrobials for Human Medicine, which was released early this year.

To make that list, an antimicrobial must be both “the sole, or one of limited available therapies, to treat serious bacterial infections in people,” and used to treat infections in people caused either by bacteria humans can get from non-human sources, or by bacteria that can develop resistance genes from non-human sources.

In the document’s fourth revision last year, certain fluoroquinolones, third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins, macrolides and glycopeptides were recategorized to the “highest priority.”

In the fifth revision, polymyxins such as colistin are also moved to the “highest priority” classification, due to the “increasing usage of colistin to treat serious infections in humans in many parts of the world, the discovery of the mcr1 and mcr2 genes that confer transmissible resistance to colistin and the spread of colistin-resistant bacteria via the food chain,” the WHO said.

In Canada, the federal health department’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate places polymyxins in Category I (“very high importance”), the highest category in its list of antimicrobials based on their importance in human medicine.

RBI, in Thursday’s report, reiterated it “recognize(s) that antibiotics play an important and delicate role in animal well-being and human health. Antibiotics are sometimes required to control and treat disease to maintain animal health and welfare.”

The company said it “require(s) our vendors to purchase products only from farmers that administer antibiotics in a judicious and responsible manner when treatment is necessary, in keeping with veterinary and regulatory requirements.”

RBI made its 2016 pledge on antibiotics for chickens shortly before the company announced a deal to buy the Atlanta-based Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen chain, which includes over 2,600 restaurants, among them over 100 Canadian stores in Ontario and Alberta.

In an article Thursday on the sustainability report, Reuters’ Lisa Baertlein quoted RBI as saying the company intends to apply the new policy to all its brands over time. — AGCanada.com Network

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