Taco Bell to Phase Out Chicken Raised on Routine Antibiotics; Students Host Event to Educate Peers

Media Contacts
Juliana Bilowich

Towson, MD: In a long-awaited victory for medically-important antibiotics, Taco Bell announced it will no longer serve chicken raised on human antibiotics in U.S. locations starting in 2017. The announcement was included in a release from Taco Bell’s parent company Yum! Brands, and comes amid widespread consumer demand and concern from the medical community about the overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry.

Taco Bell’s announcement comes after Maryland PIRG and 80 other organizations sent a letter in January to Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands, urging the company to commit to a strong antibiotics policy. In response, Towson University students hosted an informational event on campus to raise awareness among their peers.

“We’ll certainly ‘live más’ with Taco Bell’s antibiotics commitment. It’s good for business and good for public health,” said Juliana Bilowich, a Public Health Organizer with Maryland PIRG. “Millennials are becoming more aware of the health risks posed by raising animals with routine antibiotics, and they are demanding action from their favorite restaurants.”

Taco Bell’s announcement will put major market pressure on the meat industry to stop overusing antibiotics and should push its partner brands KFC and Pizza Hut to have stronger commitments as well. KFC’s antibiotics policy was also included in the release, but the fast food chain will continue to allow the routine use of antibiotics on chickens that aren’t sick as a prophylactic against disease. Such routine use breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that threaten public health.

Last year McDonald’s announced that it will no longer serve chicken raised on medically important antibiotics, and Tyson Foods, a major chicken producer and a supplier to McDonald’s followed suit. Just months later, Subway announced a transition away from all meat raised on antibiotics.

Following the announcement, two Maryland PIRG interns this semester seized the opportunity to educate their peers on the dangers of antibiotic-overuse. Their informational table included games and posters, as well as an opportunity to send a ‘photo petition’ to KFC executives through social media.

“Taco Bell’s commitment to save antibiotics makes it clear: This is not a fad. It’s an industry wide shift to protect public health, and more restaurants should get on board,” said Towson University student Shannon Houck.

Maryland PIRG has helped build a coalition of over 20,000 doctors, nurses, and other health professionals calling for an end to the overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. Taco Bell’s announcement is one more step in the right direction to help protect life-saving medicines.

“KFC, Taco Bell’s sister brand, should follow this example and serve up a bucket of original recipe chicken raised without routine antibiotics,” said Towson University Student Alex Johnson.

Antibiotic resistant infections kill 23,000 and sicken 2 million Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most large industrial farms administer antibiotics—up to 70% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock and poultry—on a routine basis to animals that often aren’t sick to promote growth and prevent disease brought on by unsanitary production practices. That overuse breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that rapidly multiply and spread off of farms via contaminated meat, direct human to animal contact, and through the air, water, and soil.

 For more info, visit www.marylandpirg.org/issues/mdp/stop-overuse-antibiotics-factory-farms-1.

# # #

Maryland PIRG is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.