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Trending: Rio 2016, McDonald’s, Subway Making Strides on Responsible Food Sourcing

McDonald's USA has removed artificial preservatives from its Chicken McNuggets and breakfast items including pork sausage patties, omelet-style eggs and scrambled eggs on breakfast platters. | Image credit: McDonalds Corporation

Among the latest news in responsible food sourcing: The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games will have the largest sustainable seafood offering to date of any Olympic or Paralympic Games; McDonald’s announced developments collectively impacting nearly half of its food menu in the United States; and Subway has enhanced its commitments for local sourcing of produce and other products.

Athlete and media attendees of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games will enjoy more than 350,000 portions (more than 70 tonnes) of responsibly sourced seafood from fisheries and farms which meet the requirements of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).

Delivering on the commitment has required the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee and its partners to bring new supplies of certified seafood to Brazil. The Organizing Committee, MSC and ASC claim that as a result, numerous farms and fisheries across the region have taken steps to improve their environmental performance in order to meet MSC and ASC standards.

“The volume of sustainably sourced seafood at this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games shows what is possible when suppliers, caterers and the public work together to support sustainable choices for people and the planet,” Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC, said in a statement. “MSC certified fisheries currently catch around one tenth of all wild seafood. We hope to see this proportion grow as recognition of the importance of sustainable seafood increases.”

“With this landmark commitment by the Games, local suppliers and caterers can showcase the best of Brazilian cuisine to a global audience and create lasting change by emphasising the importance of making the right choice when buying seafood,” Chris Ninnes, Chief Executive of the ASC, added. “With more than 1 million tonnes of ASC certified product in the market, the public can join the effort to preserve fish for future generations by buying from producers who share their goals to protect vital ecosystems and care for those who work on the farms and live in surrounding communities.”

Included on various menus within the Olympic Village, Media Village and media centres are: ASC-certified, responsibly farmed Brazilian tilapia from Netuno and Chilean salmon from Los Fiordos; and MSC-certified wild-caught Icelandic cod from Visir and Canadian chum salmon from Albion. McDonald’s Brazil will also serve 100 percent MSC-certified Argentine hoki in its McFish sandwiches throughout Brazil during the Games.


Stateside, this week McDonald’s USA announced developments collectively impacting nearly half of its national food menu. Several items are now free of artificial preservatives, antibiotics, or high fructose corn syrup as the restaurant chain continues its journey to improve its food and “build a better McDonald’s.”

“More than ever, people care about their food – where it comes from, what goes into it and how it’s prepared,” said Mike Andres, the president of McDonald’s USA. “We’re making changes to ensure the food we’re proud of is food our customers love and feel good eating, and we remain committed to our continuing food journey at McDonald’s.”

Specifically, McDonald’s USA’s new Chicken McNuggets, omelet-style eggs, scrambled eggs served on breakfast platters, and pork sausage patties no longer contain artificial preservatives, and still do not contain artificial colors or flavors. New buns without high fructose corn syrup will be rolled out this month, including the buns used on Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken sandwiches. The Artisan roll introduced in 2015 never contained high fructose corn syrup.

Finally, the company says it has met its commitment “to serve chicken not treated with antibiotics important to human medicine,” well in advance of its March 2017 target. The company says its supplier farmers still use ionophores, a class of antibiotics that are not prescribed to people, to keep chickens healthy. The achievement falls under a new antibiotics and sourcing policy announced last year, which also resulted in offering customers milk jugs of low-fat white milk and fat-free chocolate milk from cows that are not treated with rbST, an artificial growth hormone.

“I applaud efforts such as those undertaken by McDonald’s in close collaboration with its suppliers and poultry farmers, to greatly reduce the use of medically important antibiotics in its animal agricultural food supply chain,” said Dr. H Morgan Scott, a professor of epidemiology in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at Texas A&M University. “McDonald’s and its suppliers have worked to identify appropriate alternatives for sustaining broiler flock health while implementing protocols to ensure that animal welfare is not compromised. Sourcing decisions by industry leaders such as McDonald’s have great potential to positively influence appropriate antibiotic stewardship in food animal sectors around the world.”

McDonald’s continues to work towards its goal to source 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2025 in the U.S. and Canada.


Subway has also committed to source 100 percent of the eggs in its products sold in North America from cage-free hens by 2025, and has already been sourcing eggs from cage-free hens in Australia since 2014. In Europe, the company sources eggs exclusively from free range hens. The company says the changes have been slower in North America due to limited supply, but maintains it will meet its 2025 target.

The restaurant chain faced public pressure last year to ditch antibiotic-laden meat, and so it has begun to do: Subway now sources all its rotisserie-style chicken and chicken strips from animals raised without antibiotics, and aims to source its turkey breast raised without antibiotics as well within the next two to three years. There are no artificial preservatives, artificial flavors nor colors in Subway’s roast beef, turkey, rotisserie-style chicken, chicken strips, oven-roasted chicken, and meatballs.

More recently, Subway has expanded its commitments to local sourcing, saying it now locally sources its vegetables “whenever possible” through a network of over 200 growers in the United States, including many family farmers. For example, California-based Dalena Farms supplies 100 percent of Subway sandwich shops with red onions in July and August; Arkansas’ Triple M Farms supplies the state’s Subway stores with tomatoes, cucumbers and green bell peppers in June and July; and Georgia-based Carter & Sons supplies cucumbers and green bell peppers to Subway shops within the state for two growing seasons, May through July and September through November. Due to the various growing seasons across the United States, Subway sources ingredients such as tomatoes from numerous states as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico and Guatemala depending on the time of year.

100 percent of the standard beverages, salty snacks, beef, pork, poultry, cheese, eggs, sauces & dressings, soup, yogurt packaging paper and cleaning chemicals used in Subway’s U.S. restaurants are produced in the U.S. Across the pond, 100 percent of the company’s pork sausage sold in the United Kingdom (U.K.) is British pork, and 50 percent of the turkey sold in Great Britain is from Great Britain. All ham and produce sold at Subway sandwich shops in the European Union (E.U.) is sourced within the E.U., and all produce is locally-sourced in Australia and New Zealand.

Furthermore, the seafood for the chain’s Seafood Sensation currently sold in the U.S. is sourced from a responsibly-managed fishery under The Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) seafood certification program. Tuna is the only seafood sandwich on Subway restaurants’ menus worldwide, and the company exclusively uses skipjack tuna from fisheries with non-threatened stock levels. Skipjack tuna is considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as a species of least concern.


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