Chick-fil-A backs away from its ‘no antibiotics’ pledge

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With disease a growing threat, fewer chickens are antibiotic-free

Since 2014, Chick-fil-A has promised its customers it never uses chicken that has been treated with antibiotics. But times have changed.

The popular fast-food chain has altered that promise, saying its chickens will not be exposed to “antibiotics important to human medicine.”

Why the change? The company said the poultry industry is not producing as many antibiotics-free chickens as in the past. In recent months, poultry producer Tyson announced it could no longer keep all antibiotics out of its livestock. It too, said it would continue to exclude antibiotics important to the treatment of humans.

The change coincides with recent outbreaks of avian flu that resulted in huge reductions in chicken flocks and, over the last two years caused large spikes in prices of both chickens and eggs. Producers say some antibiotics are needed to keep diseases under control.

Antibiotics in the food supply became a pressing issue over the last two decades as scientists warned their prevalence could lead to stronger bacteria that could ultimately resist any antibiotic.

The change is weeks away

In a statement, the company said it will continue to serve only breast meat with no added hormones, artificial preservatives or fillers. It’s change to adding chicken treatment with some antibiotics will begin in the coming weeks.

Independent chicken producers are a large source of meat for major meat packers. Tyson has said that it estimates about half of U.S. producers rely on some form of antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says antibiotics in the food supply can be a double-edged sword. While they are valuable tools for controlling disease, the CDC says any use—for people, animals, or plants—can cause side effects and contribute to antimicrobial resistance. 

Avoiding unnecessary use helps slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance,” the CDC says. “However, some people may get more severe infections and antibiotics and antifungals can be lifesaving.”

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