As KFC changes policy, Yum shareholders pull proposal on cutting antibiotics

FILE PHOTO: A Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) sign is pictured outside its restaurant in Paramus, New Jersey July 8, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Yum Brands Inc YUM.N investors said they have withdrawn a shareholder proposal requesting that the company phase out harmful antibiotic use in its meat supply, after Yum's KFC restaurant chain made public a plan to ban the use of human antibiotics in the chicken it buys.

KFC, the second-biggest U.S. chicken chain by sales after privately held Chick-fil-A, on Thursday told Reuters that it has given its chicken suppliers until the end of 2018 to phase out the use of antibiotics important to human medicine. [L2N1HD1JM]

With the move, KFC became the last major chicken restaurant to join the fight to against dangerous superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics.

As You Sow, an environmental health watchdog group, and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), recently withdrew the proposal following “productive discussions” with the restaurant company.

“This policy is good news for modern medicine and for long-term shareholder value,” said Austin Wilson, environmental health program manager at As You Sow.

McDonald's Corp MCD.N, known for its Chicken McNuggets, says that its roughly 14,000 U.S. restaurants last year stopped serving chicken raised with antibiotics considered important to human medicine. Chick-fil-A plans to switch to poultry raised without any antibiotics at all by the end of 2019.

Consumer, health and environment groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and allied groups such as the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Food Animals Concern Trust, Center for Science in the Public Interest and Consumers Union had also called on KFC to set stricter antibiotics policies.

The vast majority of all antibiotics used in the United States currently are given not to people, but to farm animals.

Many medical scientists regard farm use of drugs that treat human infections as particularly dangerous because the practice risks promoting superbugs that can defeat life-saving human antibiotics.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Rigby