KFC announces plan to stop serving chicken raised on medically important antibiotics

Experts

Director, Food Policy Initiatives​
Media Director

Consumers Union praises KFC; calls on other restaurants to protect public health by ending reliance on antibiotics in meat supply  

April 7, 2017

YONKERS, NY — Kentucky Fried Chicken’s announcement today that it will no longer serve chicken raised using medically important antibiotics by the end of 2018 is an important victory for public health, according to Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports.  Last year, Consumers Union joined a campaign launched by NRDC and USPIRG that called on the restaurant chain to stop relying on poultry suppliers that overuse antibiotics, a practice medical experts agree is threatening public health by making these drugs less effective for treating disease in people.

“KFC’s decision on antibiotics is chicken done right,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union.  “We applaud KFC for recognizing that fast food restaurants can play an important role in protecting the effectiveness of these precious medications.  Antibiotics should only be used to treat disease and not wasted on healthy livestock to make them grow faster or to compensate for filthy conditions on factory farms.  It’s time for all fast food restaurants to help ensure antibiotics keep working by rejecting meat and poultry suppliers who misuse these vital drugs.”

In 2015, Consumers Union joined NRDC, PIRG and eighty other public interested groups to call on YUM! Brands, which includes Kentucky Fried Chicken, to stop allowing routine antibiotics use among its meat and poultry suppliers.  Over the past year, the groups delivered petitions signed by almost a half million consumers urging KFC and other YUM! Brands restaurants to make that commitment.   KFC has the largest number of restaurants of any chicken chain and is the second highest in sales.

In September 2016, Consumers Union and the other groups issued the second annual Chain Reaction report, grading the top 25 restaurant chains on their policies and practices regarding antibiotics use in their meat and poultry supply.  At the time, KFC earned an “F” grade for having policies that allowed the routine use of antibiotics in the chicken they serve.  Panera and Chipotle earned “A” grades for implementing comprehensive policies that restrict antibiotics use across their meat and poultry supply.

Nine other companies earned passing grades for adopting policies that phase out the routine use of antibiotics in some or all of their meat and poultry supply.  These policies range from strict prohibitions on all antibiotics use (Subway for all meat and poultry; Chik-fil-A for all chicken, but not pork) to policies that prohibit the use of antibiotics important to human medicine in chicken (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut).  These policies are at

various stages of implementation.  McDonald’s announced last August that 100 percent of the chicken served at its U.S. restaurants is now raised without antibiotics important in human medicine.

Burger King, Jack in the Box, and Starbucks have made recent announcements regarding changes to their antibiotics policies, but the steps taken by these chains fall short of what’s needed to protect public health.

Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not on sick humans but on healthy animals.  These antibiotics are regularly fed to cows, pigs, and poultry to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in often crowded and unsanitary conditions on today’s industrial farms.

When antibiotics are used on the farm, the bugs that are vulnerable to them tend to be killed off, leaving behind “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics.  Superbugs can spread from the farm to our communities via meat and poultry, farmworkers, and through the air, soil, and water. Antibiotic resistant infections pose a grave threat to public health because they are difficult to treat, resulting in longer stays in the hospital and too often death.  The CDC estimates that 23,000 Americans die every year from antibiotic resistant infections.

Contact:  Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org , 415-431-6747, ext 7606 (office)