After years from of pressure from food safety and consumer advocacy groups, the parent company of KFC has decided that it will end its purchase of chicken that is raised using antibiotics. Other food giants that have made a similar pledge include Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A.
KFC announced, “By the end of 2018, all chicken purchased by KFC in the U.S. will be raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. This includes our chicken tenders and popcorn chicken; but we’re especially proud to be the first major chicken chain to extend this commitment to our bone-in chicken.”
Kevin Hochman, president of KFC U.S., said, “We share the public’s concern about…antimicrobial resistance. This is something that’s important to many of our customers, and it’s something we need to do to show relevance and modernity within our brand.”
According to the Centers for Disease control, treating farm animals with antibiotics can potentially lead to resistant bacteria growing, and humans run the risk of serious diseases or even death if they get infected with these resistant bacteria during improper cooking or handling.
This decision is part of KFC’s image makeover by returning to its roots. The program is dubbed “re-Colonelization” as a tribute to KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders.
Vijay Sikumar, chief food innovation officer for KFC U.S., said, “To extend our commitment beyond our boneless menu items to all our chicken required detailed and thoughtful planning over the past year, including utilizing the USDA’s Process Verified program to ensure our suppliers can meet our requirements. We’re proud to make a commitment this expansive and believe this change will aid in shifting the rest of the industry.”
KFC said that this program would not lead to higher prices for consumers because the company will absorb the costs. Hochman noted that growers will need to raise more chickens to meet KFC’s size demands without the use of antibiotics.
Lena Brook, food policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “With KFC’s shift, more than half of the nation’s poultry supply chain will be anti-biotic free in the near future. This commitment from the nation’s most iconic fast –food chicken chain will have a major impact on the way the birds are raised in the U.S. and in the fight against the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections.”
Another pledge of KFC is to remove artificial colors and flavors from its menu by 2018 and for all their food to be free of food dyes by the end of 2017.
Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said, “This announcement is a win for anybody who might someday depend on antibiotics to get well, or seven save their lives- i.e. everybody.”
According to a recent Reuters investigation, there is an estimated annual 23,000 Americans dead from human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Tyson, one of KFC supplier of poultry announced that starting September 2017, they will eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its chickens.
KFC has around 4,200 restaurants across America.