Burger King says cut-back on antibiotics use does not apply in Kenya

A trader weighs chicken at his stall at City Market waiting for customers. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA
A trader weighs chicken at his stall at City Market waiting for customers. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

American fast food chain Burger King has said a pledge it made to cut down on usage of antibiotics in chicken in the US and Canada does not apply to the Kenyan market.

Restaurants Brands International, which owns Burger King, has committed to use chicken that are reared without antibiotics, but only for stores located in the two countries. The company will make the move in the US stores this year followed by Canada in 2018.

Heavy usage of antibiotics is blamed for increased cases of drug resistance in humans.

Burger King opened its first outlet at The Hub mall in Karen in November last year and is set to open more stores countrywide later in the year.

The new fast food restaurant is being operated through a franchise agreement with NAS Airport Services Limited, a subsidiary of French-based careering firm Servair. 

“These Restaurants Brands International commitments relate exclusively to the markets of the US and Canada. Kenya is not concerned,” said Servair communications officer Samuel Coulon in a response to Business Daily queries.

Experts say the heavy usage of antibiotics, which is intended to ward off infections as the chicken are reared in crowded and sometimes unhygienic conditions, has aggravated the rise of deadly “superbugs” infections that resist treatment in human beings said to kill more than 20,000 Americans every year.

“Antibiotics are sometimes required to control and treat diseases to maintain animal health and welfare. We require our suppliers to purchase products only from farmers that administer antibiotics in a judicious and responsible manner when treatment is necessary, in keeping with veterinary and regulatory requirements,” said Restaurants Brands International in a statement.

“We aim to eliminate the use of antibiotics deemed by the World Health Organisation as “critically important” to human medicine from our chicken supply chain in the US in 2017 and in Canada in 2018.”

Global fast food chains including McDonalds and KFC have in the past come under international pressure over the heavy use of human antibiotics while rearing chicken.

McDonald’s (it has not entered the local market yet) switched to chicken raised without human antibiotics in its US restaurants piling more pressure on Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) from consumer and environmental groups.

McDonald is now facing pressure with activists demanding it to put a global ban on the use of antibiotics.

In a past interview with the Business Daily, the local subsidiary of KFC failed to disclose the extent of use of human antibiotics by its suppliers terming the chicken served at its outlets as “safe” for human consumption.