WASHINGTON, DC—According to a Department of Health and Human Services report released Monday, McDonald's meat from antibiotics-injected livestock is now the primary source of antibiotics for U.S. children, particularly for uninsured youths from low-income households.

Science and Health

"Unfortunately, some children still fall through the cracks in our health-care system, but luckily, McDonald's is there to lend a helping hand," Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said at a press conference announcing the findings. "So even if a child's family has no health insurance and can't afford medicine, virtually anyone can afford a delicious 99-cent Big Mac with pickles, cheese, and a heapin' helpin' of [the antibiotic] quinupristin-dalfopristin."

In HHS tests, 82 percent of children who had not been properly inoculated were still found to have significant levels of antibiotics in their bloodstreams. The antibiotics, the tests concluded, were the result of sustained intake of McDonald's meat.

"Disadvantaged children tend to eat at McDonald's a lot, which is a good thing," Thompson said. "If you think about it, where else are these kids going to get their fluoroquinolone?"

Children at McDonald's

Large-scale meat producers, Thompson noted, routinely add antibiotics to the feed of healthy animals to prevent cross-infection in the crowded, cramped quarters where livestock are typically raised. In the U.S., the average beef steer receives eight times more antibiotics than its human counterpart.

"When your daughter gets strep throat, head straight over to McDonald's and prescribe her a delicious Quarter Pounder or nine-piece Chicken McNuggets," Thompson said. "She'll not only receive the amoxycillin she needs to get better, but also a whole array of growth hormones proven to speed a child's physical development."

"And if your child prefers Burger King or Wendy's," he continued, "that's fine, too. Any of the big fast-food chains can get them healthy."

While all Americans benefit from the 25 million pounds of antibiotics fed to chickens, pigs, and cows each year, children stand to gain the most, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) said.

"Children weigh less than adults, so when they eat a hamburger, they get a proportionally more potent dose of antibiotics," said Lugar, who is among the Senate's strongest proponents of fast-food-based health care. "These antibiotics are vital in the treatment of such common childhood ailments as sore throat, ear infection, and hoof rot."

According to Lugar, waiting in a crowded doctor's office may soon be a thing of the past.

A young cow is injected with penicillin at a farm that supplies Burger King.

"Every day, food scientists are discovering new antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemically engineered substances to inject into the nation's beef supply," Lugar said. "And with Americans working longer and longer hours just to make ends meet, people can't afford to waste time sitting around some waiting room until their name is called. Unlike a doctor, our fast-food providers can deliver a full spectrum of antibiotics in minutes—hot, fresh, and with a smile."

In conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, Burger King will soon release a brochure, "Happy And Healthy The Burger King Way," which outlines a 14-day plan for the treatment of bacterial infections.

In the leaflet, a cartoon cow in a medical coat reminds parents to give their infected children two daily doses of antibiotic-treated meat for 14 days. If the condition does not improve after 10 days, the parent or guardian of the ailing child is instructed to contact a store manager.

"If your child has a sinus infection, he or she can drop by before and after school for a Double Cheeseburger 50cc Meal or a delicious Chicken Tetracycline," Burger King spokeswoman Linda Jacobs said. "As we're fond of saying here at Burger King, 'This won't hurt a bite!'"

Though representatives say they're pleased with the praise it has received, the fast-food industry does not intend to rest on its laurels.

"Repeated use of antibiotics will result in increased resistance to antibiotics in new strains of bacteria," said Carl Pickney, lab researcher for TriCon Global, the fast-food conglomerate that owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. "That's why we need to encourage our meat suppliers to continually raise the levels of antibiotics in their meat, developing newer, stronger antibiotics to replace those that no longer work. We're making good progress, but we've still got a whole lot of meat to modify."