Global fast food chain KFC has said chicken served in its Kenyan outlets is “safe” but fell short of disclosing the extent of use of human antibiotics by its local suppliers.
Global fast food chains including McDonalds and KFC have come under international pressure over the heavy use of human antibiotics while rearing chicken.
Experts say the heavy usage, which is intended to ward off infections even as the chicken are reared in crowded and sometimes unhygienic conditions, has aggravated the rise of deadly “superbugs” that resist treatment in human beings.
“At KFC, the safety and wellbeing of our customers is of the utmost importance to us and we have strict processes and requirements in place to make sure that we follow high food safety standards.
“KFC does not own or operate any poultry farms, we source our chicken from Kenchic Limited, who also supply Kenya’s favourite premium retailers.” Said KFC Kenya general manager Justin Melvin in a statement.
Reports by international media say KFC may face pressure from consumer and environmental groups to change how its poultry are raised after McDonald’s said it would switch to chicken raised without human antibiotics.
McDonalds has not entered the Kenyan market yet.
KFC has been on an expansion path in Kenya, opening two stores recently, including Kenya’s first Drive-Thru outlet on Mombasa Road last year. The expansion is expected to continue with 10 more branches to be opened in the next two years in addition to the six already in operation.
KFC Kenya, run by Kuku Foods Kenya, sources most of its products locally except their potatoes which are imported from Egypt. The international pressure has also caught the attention of a local consumer rights group.
“We would rate KFC at a yellow alert, which means that consumers should be extremely careful when consuming their chicken,” said Stephen Mutoro, the Consumer Federation of Kenya secretary general in a telephone interview.
If the franchise is found to also use the tainted chicken, the alert would be red, meaning that consumers should desist from having the chicken products.
According to its web page, Kenchic assures its consumers of their Farm to Fork policy stating, “From the moment our eggs are hatched to the moment your family enjoys a tasty meal, you can be sure that the highest safety standards have been observed, every step of the way. Our chicken are reared indoors under controlled conditions that meet internationally recognised biosecure standards.”
In 2012 KFC saw sales in China, its largest market, decline after the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) found excessive amounts of antibiotics in a fraction of the chicken samples supplied to the chain.
KFC which is owned by Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum Brands Inc, has no publicly stated policy on antibiotic use in the production of the meat it buys.
“Yum, which also owns the Taco Bell and Pizza Hut chains, declined to discuss its standards for antibiotic use in meat production,” said Reuters.
According to Mr Mutoro, the changing lifestyle of Kenyans has led to more people eating out rather than dining at home, which makes them more vulnerable.
“Consumers should be weary in terms of the impact to their health when consuming the meat. They need to ask questions about the source of the meat and have a clear view of the supply chain,” he said.
McDonald’s bowed to pressure from consumers and is said to be working with stakeholders and environmental groups to cut the use of the antibiotics in its poultry supply.
McDonald’s had shown interest in the Kenyan market with a call for application by investors for a local franchise. The change in the eating habits of Kenyans has spurred the growth of the fast food market.
The last year has been marked by the entry of American Cold Stone Creameries and Dominoes Pizza, South African Ocean Basket and Japanese Teriyaki Grilled Chicken.