Consumers Call on KFC to Help Save Antibiotics and Protect Public Health

Media Contacts
Matthew Wellington

Antibiotic resistant bacteria a growing public health crisis

MASSPIRG Education Fund

Boston: Today staff and volunteers of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (MASSPIRG) held an event at a KFC restaurant in Dorchester to announce a campaign calling on KFC to stop selling chicken produced with the routine use of antibiotics. The event in Boston was part of a national campaign launch initiated with a delivery of a letter to KFC, signed by over 82 public interest groups representing millions of consumers that urge the company to commit to a strong antibiotics policy.

Many factory farms raise animals with the routine use of antibiotics, which leads to drug resistant bacteria that threaten public health. Major restaurant chains can force their meat suppliers to change by committing to only purchase meat from farms that don’t abuse our life-saving medicines.

“Bay Staters have placed an order to KFC for chicken raised without routine antibiotics,” said Matthew Wellington, Field Director of MASSPIRG’s Antibiotics Program. “KFC, the world’s largest chain of fried chicken restaurants, should answer that call like McDonald’s and Subway did last year, and serve up a strong antibiotics policy in 2016 that sets the stage for an industry wide shift.”

Consumer advocates and volunteers at the event educated people about the dangers of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and asked passersby to take a photo posing with signs that read, “I’m a KFC lover, but I’m hungry for chicken raised without antibiotics,” among other slogans. The photos were tweeted @KFC.

“The overuse of antibiotics [on farm animals] leads to drug resistant organisms, sometimes called super-bugs, that then can lead to serious infections in humans. In my medical practice I frequently see patients with infections that are becoming harder and harder to treat because the bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotics that we use. This is a huge public health problem,” said Dr. Jody Naimark, a family physician in Tewksbury.

Last year McDonald’s announced it would stop selling chicken raised on medically important antibiotics after consumers demanded it across the country. Shortly after the McDonald’s announcement Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. poultry producer, committed to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in raising their birds. Subway also committed to transition away from all meats raised on antibiotics, starting with chicken. Both commitments were major wins for public health.

KFC’s parent company, the Yum! Brands, recently stated that it would stop purchasing chicken raised on antibiotics considered critically important to human medicine by the end of 2016. This is a step in the right direction, but the policy needs to be strengthened to include the substantial number of medically important antibiotics still left open for use.

 “KFC is lagging far behind chains like Chick-Fil-A, Panera Bread, and others when it comes to their antibiotics policy. KFC will find that it’s not only good for public health, but that American consumers increasingly want meat that hasn’t been raised on our life-saving medicines,” said Wellington.

Other groups calling on KFC to make this commitment include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Keep Antibiotics Working (KAW), Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth (FOE), and the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University.

Background on antibiotics overuse on industrial farms:

Antibiotic resistant infections kill 23,000 Americans, and sicken 2 million every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most large industrial farms administer antibiotics on a routine basis to animals that often aren’t sick to promote growth and prevent disease brought on by unsanitary production practices. In fact, up to 70% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock and poultry. 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.