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Papa John’s will phase out chicken raised with antibiotics by next summer

The company joins the growing anti-antibiotic fast food movement

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Papa John's will phase out chicken raised with antibiotics by the summer of 2016. With this change, the US's third-largest pizza delivery company joins the ranks of McDonald's, Subway, and Chick-fil-A — all of which have made a commitment to phase out either human antibiotics or all antibiotics from their chicken.

Papa John's new policy will apply to its pizza toppings as well as its chicken poppers. The company also announced that its chicken will be raised on a 100 percent vegetarian diet by next summer. The pizza company didn't explicitly mention the dangers of antibiotic resistance in its press release, but the move is almost definitely related to growing public and scientific concern over this issue.

23,000 deaths in the US each year

Each year, about 23,000 people in the US die because of antibiotic-resistant infections — infections that cost the American health care system $21 billion annually. These infections are caused by bacteria that come into contact with small doses of antibiotics in the environment and subsequently develop resistance to these drugs. The widespread use of antibiotics in livestock — especially those used to treat humans — has greatly contributed to the problem. So, by favoring chicken suppliers that don't use antibiotics, it's possible that suppliers who aren't as open to the idea will follow suit.

It's worth noting that Papa John's announcement is more comprehensive than those made by McDonald's and Subway earlier this year. Unlike these two fast food chains, the pizza company has pledged to phase out both human and animal antibiotics in their chicken. In 2014, Chick-fil-A made a similar pledge; the company said it would phase out all antibiotics by 2019.