MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – McDonald’s announced Wednesday that it will phase out its practice of using chickens raised with human antibiotics over the next two years.

It follows a long list of companies, including Chipotle, Panera Bread, Tyson and Perdue, that have voluntarily reduced or gotten rid of antibiotics given to the farm animals that end up on our plates.

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So, what’s the problem with antibiotics when it comes to our food? Good Question.

“One of the big debates we’ve been having is the use of antibiotics for growth promotion, which is being phased out,” said University of Minnesota Veterinary Public Health professor Jeff Bender.

Since the FDA approved the use of human and animal antibiotics for farm animals in the 1950s, they’ve been used for two major reasons. One is to treat diseases and prevent infections in the animals and another is to promote growth and make the animals fatter.

Bender says before even getting into the details of the debate, it’s important to point out that the meat that makes it to our tables is antibiotic-free.

“We have strict policies making sure that the animals who receive the antibiotics are put aside for a while until those antibiotics are removed from their systems,” he said.

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Even so, companies have cut back, and even ended, their use of antibiotics in farm animals. In 2013, the FDA implemented a voluntary plan with the food producers and associations that would phase out the use of certain antibiotics solely to promote growth.

At the time, William Flynn, deputy director for science policy at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine said, “We need to be selective about the drugs we use in animals and when we use them.”

Bender said he believes consumer pressure is one reason for the phasing out of the use of human antibiotics.

“The consumer is thinking about antibiotics and aware of antibiotics and says, ‘Can we have food that doesn’t have antibiotics?’” he said.

But, experts say it’s not necessarily the antibiotics causing the problem, but the continued overuse of human antibiotics in both humans and animals.

“Anytime we use antibiotics, there is a chance for antibiotics resistance to develop,” Bender said. “We don’t really want to use a lot of antibiotics. We want to be selective. We want to be good stewards of the antibiotics that we have, and that’s really the bottom line.”

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McDonald’s has said it will continue to use a type of animal antibiotic called ionophores to keep its chickens healthy.

Heather Brown