McDonald’s Under Fire At Regulator Again For Use Of Antibiotics

In the latest entry to the enduring saga of shareholders versus fast food chains, The Shareholder Commons (TSC) has filed a notice of exempt solicitation against McDonald’s Corporation with United States regulator the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). 

The filing, submitted to the SEC on April 18th, regards McDonald’s use of antibiotics in both its beef and pork products.

It urged that the company “adopt an enterprise-wide policy to phase out the use of medically-important antibiotics for disease prevention purposes in its beef and pork supply chains”.1

The proposal also asked for shareholders to vote on the matter at McDonald’s upcoming annual meeting, due to take place on May 22nd next month.


TSC says McDonald’s threatens value to shareholders

In the documentation and proposal for the SEC filing, TSC said the following:

McDonald’s is the single largest beef purchaser in the United States and one of the largest in the world and a major buyer of pork; its policies thus have tremendous influence on the market as a whole… McDonald’s said the proposal is ‘unnecessary’. This is false. Antimicrobial resistance (“AMR”) is increasing at an alarming clip, creating expanding economic damage and consequent threat to the value of diversified portfolios… the company’s existing policies fall well short of the external expert recommendations.”


Responses to Invezz

At the time of this article going to press, McDonald’s Corporation has not responded to Invezz’ request for comment on the matter.

Similarly, The Shareholder Commons was also contacted by Invezz, and had also not responded for comment on the story at the time of its publication.

What are McDonald’s antibiotics use guidelines?

In December 2022, McDonald’s updated their guidelines on the matter. The company says that it is committed to ‘responsible antibiotic use’ throughout its supply chain for beef, pork and chicken products.

McDonald’s says that these are based on the WHO One Health approach,2 and that the use of use of ‘Highest Priority Critically Important’ antibiotics has been eliminated from all chicken products served by the chain in most regions, including the US, Europe, Canada and the UK.3

However, no mention is made of the same approach having been adopted with regards to beef and pork offerings – presumably what the TSC has taken issue with.

Other recent filings against McDonald’s

This is not the first SEC filing against McDonald’s. Earlier this month, the Accountability Board Incorporated submitted its own notice of exempt solicitation against the company for its use of caged chickens for its egg sourcing, requesting that the company move to a ‘cage-free egg supply chain’.4

TSC’s filing against McDonald’s antibiotics usage also comes almost exactly one year after Green Century Equity Fund submitted a filing on the same thing, on April 19th 2023.5


What is a notice of exempt solicitation?

A notice of exempt solicitation is a filing with the SEC regulator which shareholders can send to voice opinions and garner support on an issue from other shareholders on issues with a company which are subject to shareholder voting).

Although most companies will choose to respond to these (as McDonald’s themselves has done in the past, and probably will do again here), they are not required to do so.

It is important to note that, with a notice of exempt solicitation, the company filing does not have to disclose their stake or number of shares in the company, or any further information relating to their proposal.

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