KFC Friday said it would stop serving chicken raised using antibiotics that are important in human medicine by the end of 2018. The chain joins several other large fast-food chains that have made similar announcements.

"The threat of resistance to human antibiotics is a rising public health concern in the U.S. As such, offering chicken raised without medically important antibiotics is the next step in our food promise to our customers," KFC said in a statement.

KFC has the largest number of restaurants of any chicken chain. What's more, the company said its decision will have an impact on the chicken industry beyond the meat it buys for its own restaurants. KFC only purchases a fraction of each flock of a farmer's chickens, the company said, but it will require the removal of medically important antibiotics from the entire flock. Presumably, the rest of the chickens would be sold elsewhere. 

“KFC’s announcement is an important step forward for public health,” said Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. “Overuse of these lifesaving drugs in animal agriculture contributes greatly to antibiotic resistance, which is when antibiotics lose their effectiveness to treat sick people, and nearly 23,000 deaths a year are attributable to antibiotic-resistant infections." 

The claim of "no medically important antibiotics" in meat and poultry does not mean that the animals were raised without any antibiotics, however. Animals that are raised without medically important antibiotics aren't given drugs used to treat people, but they may be given other types of antibiotics.

In the past year, Consumers Union, along with NRDC, U.S. PIRG, and other public interest groups sent petitions signed by nearly half a million consumers to Yum Brands, which includes KFC, asking the company to adopt a meaningful no-antibiotics policy.