Oregon advocacy group pressures KFC to go antibiotic-free

OSPIRG group in 2016 (Courtesy to OSPIRG)

The Oregon State Public Interest Research Group delivered a petition with 25,000 signatures to a local KFC on August 2, asking the fast food chain to go antibiotic-free.

Ten people from the community showed up at the event, OSPIRG Media Advisory Bobbi Wilson said. Prior to delivering the petition, speakers were given an opportunity to address the issue.

“KFC shouldn’t chicken out on taking this step to save antibiotics,” Wilson said at the event. “Nearly 25,000 Oregonians are sending KFC a clear message: stop serving meat raised with the routine use of our life-saving medicines.”

At the University of Oregon campus, the OSPIRG school chapter launched a campaign in January calling on KFC, the world’s largest chain of fried chicken restaurants to purchase antibiotic-free meat.

The project to convince fast food chains to stop using meat raised on antibiotics started several years ago. Concerns on the use of antibiotics in agriculture were raised after studies, including ones from World Health Organization, revealed that the overuse of antibiotics could potentially be a threat to public health.

According to Food and Drug Administration study in 2012, 70 percent of antibiotics sold in America is for use on livestock and poultry, and approximately 23,000 Americans die each year from an antibiotic-resistant infection.

“Routine dosing of antibiotics allows bacteria to mutate to survive, and therefore, are resistant to previously effective medicines,” registered nurse at Peachhealth Sacred Heart Medical Center Janet Sinelli said. “Would you knowingly sit down to a meal and eat a plateful of food that has been raised with medically important antibiotics?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these infections would kill more people worldwide by 2050 than cancer does today, unless action is taken.

OSPIRG and other PIRGs across the nation did just that.

The organization succeeded in convincing McDonald’s and Subway in 2015, and Taco Bell in 2016, to go antibiotic-free with their meats, but KFC still lags behind.

Local farmer at Deck Family Farm in Junction City Brendan Jackson spoke at the event, calling for a change in KFC operation.

“KFC is in a unique position to leverage their purchasing power in a meaningful way,” he said, “Doing so would not only help stop the spread of dangerous superbugs, but would allow farmers that raise KFC birds to farm in a manner that is better for the animals, better for business and better for public health.”

“The cost of resistant bugs is too great to ignore,” said Sarah Gillem, a community member whose children have fought an ongoing battle with antibiotic resistance. “We must address this problem now. It’s here, and it affects more people than you may know. We are asking KFC to say NO to chicken produced with the indiscriminate use of antibiotics.”

Nationally, the organization has gathered more than 87,000 signatures for the petition. Its hashtag #KFCsavesABX also gained some traction on Twitter.

Wilson called Oregon the front-runner of the campaign with 25,000 signatures, which was handed to the general manager at the KFC in Gateway Mall in Springfield. Wilson said the interaction was brief, but the manager was surprised with the large turnout of signatures.

Wilson said the organization will continue to push for a switch by the end of August 2016.