Pizza Hut pledges to drop some chicken antibiotics by 2022

The sign at a Pizza Hut location, which is owned by Yum Brands Inc, is pictured ahead of their company results in Pasadena, California U.S., July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Yum Brand Inc’s Pizza Hut chain will fully phase out chickens raised with certain antibiotics in its U.S. restaurants by 2022, in the latest push by a major restaurant chain to follow healthier food practices.

The restaurant had said in 2016 it planned to remove antibiotics important to human medicine from chicken for its pizzas by the end of March 2017. The move announced on Tuesday will include all antibiotics considered important to human medicine in all its chicken products, including its WingStreet wings.

“Pizza Hut’s announcement is another step toward preserving life-saving medicines for what they’re meant for, treating illness,” U.S. PIRG Antibiotics Program Director Matthew Wellington said in a statement.

“We applaud them for taking this step and urge other restaurant leaders to follow,” he added.

Concern has grown among public health experts, consumers and shareholders that the overuse of such drugs is contributing to rising numbers of life-threatening human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria dubbed “superbugs.”

An estimated 70 percent of antibiotics important to human health are sold for use in meat and dairy production.

“Today’s announcement to no longer serve chicken raised with antibiotics by 2022 demonstrates our commitment to serve food that not only tastes great, but that customers can feel good about eating,” Pizza Hut Chief Brand Officer Marianne Radley said in a statement.

Tuesday’s announcement follows similar decisions by other Yum Brand chains and competitors, including KFC, McDonald’s Corp, and privately held Chick-fil-A.

Reporting by Alana Wise in New York; Additional reporting by Lisa; Baertlein in Los Angeles and Theopolis Waters in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis and James Dalgleish