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Tyson Foods says it will stop feeding its chickens antibiotics that are prescribed to humans. NPR's Dan Charles reports on a major shift by the poultry industry.
DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: For decades now, farmers that raise chickens, pigs and cattle have used antibiotics to keep their animals healthy and get them to grow faster. But it's become controversial because the more you use such drugs, the more quickly bacteria evolve resistance to them. That could mean the antibiotics won't work as well when doctors use them to treat people. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been trying to restrict the use of these drugs on farms. And the poultry industry in particular is now changing course. Over the past year, companies like Perdue and Pilgrim's Pride have announced big cuts in antibiotic use. And today, the biggest producer of them all, Tyson Foods, is announcing its own plan. Here's Donnie Smith, the company CEO.
DONNIE SMITH: We believe we'll be able to make the necessary progress to eliminate all human-used antibiotics within the next couple years.
CHARLES: Tyson still will use a class of antibiotics called ionophores that are not used in human medicine. And Smith says they are not saying they will never use a human antibiotic.
SMITH: What we're saying is we don't believe we're going to need to. But we're not going to let chickens suffer.
CHARLES: If the company does resort to using a human antibiotic, though, it will report that use publicly. Gail Hansen, a long-time critic of antibiotic use, with the Pew Charitable Trust's Antibiotic Resistance Project, called the announcement a really big deal.
GAIL HANSEN: Tyson is the big chicken producer. Lots and lots of folks are saying they want to go to fewer and fewer antibiotics, and Tyson is saying we're with you. You know, we're going there, too. So this is huge.
CHARLES: Other critics of antibiotic use also welcomed the announcement, and they called on turkey, pork and beef producers to follow the poultry industry's example. Dan Charles, NPR News.
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