Activists Celebrate National Fried Chicken Day by Calling on KFC to Save Antibiotics

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Boston: On National Fried Chicken Day, volunteers and staff with MASSPIRG and U.S. PIRG, network of state affiliates, held thirty events in front of KFCs across the country to call on the Colonel of fried chicken to switch to serving chicken raised without routine antibiotics.

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.

“Who knew there was a ‘national fried chicken day’?” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s Consumer Program Director. “But since there is such a day, we’re celebrating it by pushing KFC and other fried chicken chains to help stop the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.”

MASSPIRG mobilized KFC customers to present “save antibiotics coupons” at the local KFC restaurants and delivered a letter to the local stores, signed by 90 consumer, health, and environmental groups, that had previously been delivered to corporate management in Louisville. The letter urged KFC to set a strong antibiotics policy.  Passersby were also asked to take photo petitions, which were tweeted to KFC with this message: “Happy #NationalFriedChickenDay @KFC the best fried chicken is raised without routine antibiotics.”

Earlier this year, KFC announced a “re-colonelization” of its brand, focused on returning to the quality with which the Colonel himself once made KFC’s famous chicken. At the events, MASSPIRG urged KFC to honor the memory of that man in another way: by helping to preserve the very “miracle” drugs that could have saved his life. Colonel Sanders died of pneumonia, an illness that was often fatal before penicillin became widely-available.

“National Fried Chicken Day is KFC’s opportunity to not only revitalize its brand, but rise to its customers’ calls for chicken raised without misusing our life-saving medicines,” said Cummings. “Some of the biggest names in chicken have taken steps to reduce antibiotics in their production and supply chains. It’s time the Colonel acted as well.”

Commitments to reduce the misuse of antibiotics are even more urgent today, 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. 

MASSPIRG activists call on KFC to make a commitment to serve chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics on National Fried Chicken Day in front of a KFC franchise in Dorchester.