KFC says that it is planning to phase out all chicken that are raised antibiotics important to human medicine by the end of 2018.
"We're constantly working to meet the changing preferences of our customers, while ensuring we deliver on the value they expect from KFC", said Kevin Hochman, president and chief concept officer for KFC U.S. "Offering chicken raised without medically important antibiotics is the next step in that journey".
"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", Halloran said. Officials say it can lead to germs becoming resistant to drugs, making antibiotics no longer effective in treating some illnesses in humans.
KFC's rivals have already announced plans to curb their use of chickens raised with antibiotics.
Vijay Sukumar, chief food innovation officer for KFC U.S., said the new policy applies throughout the bird's full life cycle, which includes the hatchery where chicks are sometimes injected with antibiotics while still in the shell. McDonald's roughly 14,000 USA restaurants a year ago stopped serving chicken raised with antibiotics considered important to human medicine. The chain, which has been the bane of some medical and animal rights groups for its resistance to this move, said its announcement today marks the first time a major national U.S. QSR chain has committed to using hens raised this way for bone-in chicken.
Given its stature, KFC had been the focus of several antibiotic reduction campaigns by consumer, health and environment groups, including U.S. PIRG, as well as from a coalition of British and U.S. shareholders with more than $2 trillion in assets under management.
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KFC, a subsidiary of Yum! Other fast food companies have made similar pledges, including McDonald's Corp.
Right now the policy will only take effect at KFCs in the US, so you might want to hold off on eating at the chain if and when you travel outside the country - oh, and obviously until the 2018 antibiotic ban takes effect.
KFC also said it will be phasing out artificial colors and flavors from the core menu by the end of 2018 and will offer 100 percent dye-free food by the end of this year. The CDC estimates that 23,000 people die each year from 17 types of antibiotic-resistant infections and that an additional 15,000 die from a pathogen linked to long-term antibiotic use.
Hochman said the policy change has been in the works for a year.
To meet increasing demand for meat raised without certain antibiotics, top USA chicken company Tyson Foods Inc TSN.N and rival producers are turning to sanitizing wipes, bacteria-reducing fog and even oregano to keep birds healthy.
Tyson said it has ramped up efforts to sanitize facilities and eggs that hatch into baby chicks, which are most vulnerable to sickness.
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