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Colonel Sanders to Kick the Antibiotics Habit

Global fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken has committed to no longer purchasing chicken raised on antibiotics by 2018. (Ralf Roletschek/Wikimedia Commons)
Global fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken has committed to no longer purchasing chicken raised on antibiotics by 2018. (Ralf Roletschek/Wikimedia Commons)
April 10, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. — Consumer and public health advocates are applauding the latest pledge by a fast food chain to phase out its use of chickens raised on antibiotics. Kentucky Fried Chicken has announced that by the end of 2018, all chicken purchased by the company will be raised without having received any of the antibiotics that are important to human medicine.

Mathew Wellington, field director of the National Antibiotics Program for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said the move makes sense, given the global concern about the rise of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."

"Consumers across the country should certainly be happy that KFC, a major actor in the marketplace, is moving away from the use of antibiotics,” Wellington said. "It's a big step forward for public health."

Farmers use antibiotics to grow chickens faster and prevent diseases in crowded conditions. Reuters has reported that some poultry producers have turned to sanitizing wipes and bacteria-reducing fog to keep birds healthy.

Wellington said PIRG has been active with other consumer groups in asking national food chains to end their use of poultry raised with antibiotics. But he said KFC's move is in an entirely different league.

"Their size - they're one of the biggest chicken buyers in the country - their commitment could actually lead to a majority of the U.S. chicken industry no longer raising chickens with medically important antibiotic use, or the routine use of those drugs,” he said. "And that would be a major shift."

Currently, Wellington said about 70 percent of the medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. are purchased for use on livestock and poultry.

More info on the impact of antibiotics in livestock and poultry is available here.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA