LOS ANGELES, June 22 (Reuters) - The parent of Burger King and Tim Hortons on Thursday vowed to cut the use of antibiotics in its chicken supply, joining other major fast-food chain operators in the battle against the rise of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs.
Restaurant Brands International Inc said it intends to switch to chicken raised without the use of antibiotics important to human medicine in the United States and Canada by the end of 2018. More specific details of the plan, released as part of the company's first sustainability report, were not immediately available.
Human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose a grave threat to global health and are estimated to kill at least 23,000 Americans each year, although a recent Reuters investigation found that many infection-related deaths are going uncounted.
Some 70 percent of antibiotics vital for fighting infections in humans are sold for use in meat and dairy production. Medical researchers have concerns that overuse of those drugs on farms may diminish their effectiveness in fighting disease in humans.
As You Sow, a non-profit shareholder advocacy group, withdrew a shareholder resolution calling for reduced antibiotic use in Restaurant Brands' meat supply following its commitment on chicken.
"This is great news for modern medicine and for long-term shareholder value," said Austin Wilson, Environmental Health Program Manager at As You Sow.
McDonald's Corp, Wendy's Co, KFC and Chick-fil-A are among the other companies that have made commitments to reduce the use of antibiotics in the poultry they buy. (Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)