Chipotle Mexican Grill has applauded the Food and Drug Administration’s attention to the overuse of antibiotics in livestock farming, but the company also said there is more the agency and the industrial animal agriculture sector can do. While Chipotle sees the FDA’s voluntary plan as a good first step, the company said it believes more intervention is needed to stop the abuse of antibiotics in farming. 

“We are pleased that the FDA is paying attention to the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, and are glad to see them taking this first step,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “But there are gaps in the program, particularly that it continues to allow antibiotic use for prevention of disease, and compliance is voluntary. While the FDA has a good track record using guidance to drive change, we hope they will monitor progress closely as producers could have stopped using antibiotics on their own at any time, but few have chosen to do so.” 

The FDA’s proposed plan asks, but does not require, chicken, beef and pork producers to reduce the quantities of antibiotics given to animals to promote growth, while allowing for continued antibiotic use for the treatment, prevention and control of illness. Under the plan, antibiotic use in feed would require a prescription. The FDA has said it hopes its plan will slow the indiscriminant use of antibiotics, which contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans. 


“We started serving meat from animals raised in a humane way and without the use of antibiotics because we believe animals should be raised in ways that emphasize good care rather than chemicals,” said Ells. “These voluntarily guidelines seem unlikely to cause producers to change the practices that necessitate dependence on drugs in the first place. It’s an important first step, but stronger action will be needed to bring about meaningful change in an industry where their practices are so well entrenched.” Under Chipotle’s program, antibiotics may only be used to treat sick animals, but those animals must then be removed from its program. 

“We certainly hope that the industry will follow the recommendations of the FDA’s guidance and see that food can be raised in ways that are better for the animals, the environment and human health,” said Ells.