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NEW BRUNSWICK – New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) Students at Rutgers University helped kick off a national consumer campaign Wednesday that calls on Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, to stop selling chicken produced with the routine use of antibiotics, according to a statement
The campaign announcement was initiated through the delivery of a letter to the CEO of Yum! Brands, signed by more than 80 groups representing millions of consumers, that urges 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, the statement said.
“Consumers and public health experts have placed an order to major restaurant chains for meat raised without antibiotics,” Arielle Mizrahi, campaign coordinator with NJPIRG Students, said in the statement. “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 that sets the stage for an industry wide shift.”
Yum! Brands, which also is the parent company of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, recently stated that it would stop purchasing chicken raised on antibiotics considered critically important to human medicine by the end of the year. 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, the statement said.
Students at Rutgers University - New Brunswick participated in the launch announcement through social media postings and tweeting photo petitions @KFC that read "I’m a KFC lover, but I’m hungry for chicken raised without antibiotics," among other slogans. The photos were tweeted @KFC with #KFCsaveABX.
“KFC is lagging far behind chains like Chick-Fil-A, Panera Bread, and others when it comes to their antibiotics policy," Janelle Melecio, NJPIRG Students board member, said in the statement. "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."
Rutgers students are charged an $11.20 fee on tuition term bills that is earmarked for NJPIRG Students' activities, Mizrahi said. The funding, which totals about $530,000 per year, is used for such items as campaign material and hiring full time staff, she said.
"Students vote every three years on this," Mizrahi said, adding students will be voting on this again in the fall.
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, the statement said.
Other groups calling on Yum! Brands to make the commitment include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Keep Antibiotics Working (KAW), Friends of the Earth (FOE), and the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University.
“We rely on our life-saving drugs to work when we need them. No one wants their favorite pizza, taco or fried chicken place to undermine the effectiveness of our antibiotics, NRDC food policy advocate Lena Brooks said in her blog. "Companies like Yum! Brands—which owns some of America’s most popular restaurant chains — have the power to keep our drugs working by asking their suppliers to end the routine use of all medically important antibiotics in animals that are not sick.”
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