If fried chicken chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen follows the lead of its new owner, it could become the next restaurant chain to commit to curbing antibiotics in chicken.
Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King and Tim Hortons , has agreed to buy Popeyes for $1.8 billion -- a transaction that was confirmed Monday. Burger King and Tim Hortons both announced late last year that they would only serve chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine, aiming to make the switch in U.S. stores in 2017 and in Canadian stores in 2018, Reuters reported.
It’s not yet clear whether that policy will apply to Popeyes as well. But As You Sow, a health advocacy group that helped Restaurant Brands develop its antibiotic policy, expects the fried chicken chain will follow suit.
“A company like Restaurant Brands -- they're going to be judged on the commitments in all of their different brands, and it doesn't make sense to be improving the standards of one and not improving the others,” Austin Wilson, environmental health program manager for As You Sow, told Fortune.
Restaurant Brands and Popeyes did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Wilson said that because Popeyes is in the business of chicken, it has an incentive to keep up with changing standards of chicken production. Scientists and health experts have cautioned that antibiotics in meat and dairy products can contribute to human infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Several companies have recently banned human antibiotics in poultry for that reason, while a 2016 report found a handful of other chains have yet to seriously address antibiotic concerns.
“Every company focuses on their key ingredients,” Wilson said. “What is the biggest issue for chicken right now? Antibiotics. So it's really a no-brainer in many ways.”
As You Sow has aimed to push companies to remove “medically important antibiotics” from chicken. Wilson said the group is hoping to discuss those policies with Popeyes.
“This is really about making sure that modern medicine continues to work,” he said. “The more we use antibiotics, the less effective they become.”
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