Harmful Antibiotics Found in Fast Food, Report Says

Lab testing showed food samples from 10 popular fast-food chains contained veterinary antibiotic, antiparasitic, and contraceptive medications.

A recent investigation by Moms Across America — a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about GMOs and toxic chemicals in food — found three veterinary drugs and hormones in 10 food samples from some of the most popular fast-food restaurants in the United States.

Collaborating with Children's Health Defense and the Centner Academy, the non-profit group tested 21 fast-food items from the top 20 QSR50-rated restaurant chains. The team also tested food from #33 ranked In-and-Out Burger because of recent claims it's a healthier fast-food burger chain.

Volunteers with Moms Across America gathered forty-two fast food samples from 21 locations nationwide. The non-profit sent the samples to the Health Research Institute to test for veterinary drugs and hormones, glyphosate, pesticides, heavy metals, phthalates, PFAS, minerals, vitamins, and calorie content.

Though the full report is pending release, initial findings showed the presence of harmful antibiotics, antiparasitic, and contraceptive drugs used in animals in food samples from 10 of the fast-food chains.

Specifically, the report found:

  • Monensin in Taco Bell's Beef Taco Supreme, Burger King's Quarter Pounder with lettuce, tomato, and cheese, and McDonald's Big Mac.
  • Monensin and Narasin in Dunkin Donuts' Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich (traces of Narasin), Wendy's Cheeseburger, Domino's Pepperoni Cheese Pizza with extra pepperoni (traces of Narasin).
  • Traces of Narasin in the Double Smoke Bacon Cheddar and Egg Sandwich from Starbucks.
  • Nicarbazin in Chick-Fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich.

However, Chipotle's Carnitas Bowl with Everything and Subway's Cold Cut Combo Footlong Sub did not test positive for the drugs.

Are these drugs found in fast food harmful?

Monensin is an antibiotic used to prevent coccidiosis in poultry and as a growth promoter in cattle. It is not FDA-approved for use in people. Narasin is an antibiotic and antiparasitic feed additive. Both drugs produce acute toxicity when ingested.

According to a 2017 paper, Monensin consumption caused two deaths and one case of severe illness in humans. Moreover, in animal studies, Narasin ingestion resulted in diarrhea and depressed appetite and behavior.

Nicarbazin is an antiparasitic and contraceptive used to treat poultry and reduce egg hatching in Canadian Geese. It's considered an eye irritant and produced liver injury in a two-year study using dogs.

However, lab testing only found microgram doses of these medications in the food samples — much lower than the doses indicated in the studies.

In addition, agricultural use of antibiotics may be one factor contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistance in people. For example, reports suggest that humans can be exposed to resistant bacteria when consuming animals treated with antibiotics.

While fast food can be a relatively inexpensive and convenient meal, Moms Across America says that the annual gross sales of these top ten fast food chains were $134,308,000,000.

However, the organization asserts, "Healthcare costs from consistently consuming food with toxins that harm human health are incalculable."

They point to 2021 statistics indicating personal healthcare expenditures in the U.S. average $10,784 per capita.

Moms Across America says that because of potentially harmful antibiotics and other veterinary drugs in fast food, "we are paying a high price to eat toxic food no matter how cheap the meal costs."

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