McDonald's has announced it will begin phasing out the use of human antibiotics in its global chicken supply next year, in an effort to fight dangerous superbugs.
McDonald's New Zealand spokesperson Simon Kenny said New Zealand chicken suppliers are expected to stop using antibiotics by the end of 2019.
"As part of McDonald's update to its global vision for antibiotic stewardship in food animals our New Zealand chicken supplier will be working to eliminate the use of antibiotics defined by the World Health Organisation as highest priority critically important by the end of 2019," Mr Kenny said.
Antibiotics are mixed with the food or water of around 85 million factory-farmed chickens in New Zealand each year.
In January 2018, highest priority critically important antibiotics (HPCIAs) will be gone from McDonald's chickens in Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Europe. In Europe, the company will make an exception for the antibiotic Colistin.
Suppliers in New Zealand, Australia and Russia will stop using the drugs by the end of 2019, and European suppliers plan to remove Colistin at the same time.
McDonald's said the policy will eventually expand over the next decade to include other drugs and animal products, including beef and pork.
Routinely feeding antibiotics to animals raised for food, to promote growth and prevent illness, has been linked to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and superbugs that kills thousands of people each year.