KFC will serve chicken raised without human antibiotics in the U.S.by the end of 2018, the company said Friday, adding its considerable weight to the push to change the way poultry is treated.
KFC worked with more than 2,000 farms, majority family-owned and managed, in a dozen states to implement the new policy.
Seventy percent of human antibiotics are now used for meat and dairy production to help prevent infections like E. coli in animals - aka to prevent vendors from taking losses when some animals naturally get sick and can't be sold as food for humans anymore. But health experts say it leads to germs becoming resistant to drugs and makes antibiotics ineffective in treating some illnesses in people.
In the past year, Consumers Union, along with Natural Resource Defense Council, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and others sent petitions signed by almost half a million consumers to Yum Brands, which includes KFC, asking the company to adopt a meaningful no-antibiotics policy.
"This announcement is a win for anybody who might someday depend on antibiotics to get well or even save their lives - i.e. everybody", Matthew Wellington, program director for U.S. PIRG's antibiotics program, said in a press release.
Kentucky Fried Chicken was the last holdout of the big three chicken restaurants, after McDonald's and Chick-fil-A, to join the fight against the unsafe rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs and decide to drop their use.
"We recognize that it's a growing public health concern", KFC U.S. President Kevin Hochman told Reuters on Thursday.
The announcement comes in response to health advocates who've long urged the company to reconsider its antibiotic policies, warning KFC that the life-saving medicines need to be preserved. "While federal antibiotics policy stagnates, the market is responding to consumer demand for better meat". The brand has also made recent commitments to ensure all core products are free of artificial colors and flavors by 2018 and make its menu free of food dyes by this year, with the exception of beverages and third-party products.
The chain, owned by Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum Brands Inc.
Routinely feeding antibiotics to animals raised for food has been linked to the surge in resistant strains of bacteria that cause serious human illnesses, blamed for about 23,000 additional deaths annually and $55 million in healthcare costs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The group endorses KFC's move.
"It's great news for fried chicken lovers, and most importantly it's great news for public health", Brook said. Its Pizza Hut division has the same rules for pizza toppings.