Is KFC Following McDonald's Lead With Healthier Food?

Shareholders of Yum! Brands Inc., parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken, have filed a petition demanding the company stop using antibiotics in its chicken.

As McDonald’s, Subway, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy’s are planning to cease the use of antibiotics in their chicken within the next few years, investor activists are urging Yum! Brands to alter its practices as well. More than 350,000 signatures have been collected for the proposal, urging the corporation to become a public health change agent and force meat suppliers to change their practices.

"KFC is lagging woefully behind,” said Lena Brook, food policy advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council, according to Reuters. "Diners around the country want KFC to step up."

Per federal law, Kentucky Fried Chicken does not use antibiotics for growth promotion. Nevertheless, medical professionals state that the use of antibiotics in healthy animals plays a role in the development of drug-resistant “superbug” infections.

Antibiotic use in animals has also been linked to 23,000 deaths in the U.S. and over 2 million serious infections, as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and considers such antibiotic use an enormous threat to global health. These practices also lead to more than $20 billion in health care costs.

"These lifesaving drugs should be used only when animals are sick," said Steven Roach, food safety program director at the Food Animals Concern Trust.

"We count on our life-saving drugs to work when we need them," Brook explained, as reported by The Huffington Post. "No one wants their favorite pizza, taco or fried chicken place to undermine the effectiveness of our antibiotics. Companies like Yum! Brands -- which owns some of America’s most popular restaurant chains, like KFC -- have the power to keep our drugs working by asking their suppliers to end the routine use of antibiotics in animals that are not sick."

Although Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell and Pizza Hut have vowed to stop using chicken with antibiotics important to human health by 2017, Kentucky Fried Chicken, which utilizes much more chicken, has yet to make a similar commitment, according to Fortune. 

Austin Wilson, environmental health program manager of As You Sow, said, "Yum! Brands’ silence in the face of this looming antibiotic resistance crisis is bad for business."