Yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day. At CALPIRG, we decided to celebrate by calling on the largest national fried chicken chain to help stop the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.
CALPIRG staff and volunteers delivered a letter signed by 90 consumer, health, and environmental groups to local KFC restaurants in Santa Barbara, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Oakland, and El Cerrito, and held public outreach efforts in front of those restaurants to motivate the company to do its part to help protect the public from antibiotic resistance. Passerby were asked to take photo petitions, which were tweeted to KFC with the message: “Happy #NationalFriedChickenDay @KFC the best fried chicken is raised without routine antibiotics.
Commitments to reduce the misuse of antibiotics are more urgent than ever, as new bacteria that are resistant to even the last-resort antibiotic, colistin, have emerged in farm animals and in humans both in the U.S. and worldwide. This has prompted many public health experts to call for immediate action to cut unnecessary antibiotics use. Already two million Americans get sick each year from antibiotic resistant infections, and 23,000 die.
Routine use of antibiotics on farms is a major part of the problem. Roughly 70% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are for livestock and poultry. Many farms administer the drugs on a routine basis to animals that aren’t sick in order to make them grow faster and to prevent disease often brought on by unsanitary conditions. That practice breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that spread off the farm through many channels.
An increasing number of KFC’s competitors, including Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Subway, plus the other two chains under the Yum! Brands label, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, have taken concrete steps towards phasing out chicken raised on routine antibiotics. These commitments are pushing the meat industry away from overusing these life-saving drugs.
Now it’s KFC’s turn to follow suit. In the coming weeks, we will continue to educate the public about this critical issue and pressure the company to do its part to protect the public from the spread of superbugs.