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KFC Move Called "Win" for Responsible Antibiotic Use

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Advocates say KFC's move makes sense given the global concern about the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. (MASSPIRG)
Advocates say KFC's move makes sense given the global concern about the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. (MASSPIRG)
 By Mike CliffordContact
April 10, 2017

BOSTON -- 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, program director at the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, or MASSPIRG, said the move makes sense given the global concern about the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

"Bay Staters and 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 to 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 the KFC decision has particular significance in Massachusetts, because the state is a leader in medical care and research.

"We've got universities and medical systems in the Boston area that are world class, and those doctors rely on antibiotics to treat sick people,” he said. "And so, KFC's announcement is going to help preserve these medicines for the future."

Wellington said MASSPIRG has been active with other consumer groups in asking national restaurant 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 information on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry is available here.

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