Subway Restaurants announced Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, that its 27,000-plus outlets in the United States will start transitioning early next year to serving poultry products made only from turkeys and chickens raised without antibiotics. “Beginning in March 2016, SUBWAY® customers across the U.S. will able to order meals made with chicken raised without antibiotics. Turkey raised without antibiotics will be introduced in 2016, with a completed transition expected within 2-3 years, and pork and beef raised without antibiotics will follow within six years after that,” the company stated.

SubwayEatNorovirusMainOther chains that have recently committed to serving antibiotic-free chicken include Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Chipotle and Panera. Subway, which has more restaurant locations across the country than any other chain, had already stated in August that it would phase out sourcing chicken raised with antibiotics. However, several consumer groups had criticized the company for lack of both transparency and specific details.

Tuesday’s announcement was welcomed by a coalition of these groups, which had planned to deliver 300,000 petitions about the issue to Subway’s Connecticut headquarters on Thursday. “Overusing antibiotics on livestock and poultry contributes to a major public health problem, antibiotic-resistant infections. People are increasingly aware of this, and customers have been hungry for meat raised without antibiotics,” said Steve Blackledge, public health program director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), one of the coalition members. “We were set to deliver nearly 300,000 petitions to Subway headquarters, much of it from PIRG activists who had blanketed neighborhoods around the country since early this summer, but it now looks like we’ll deliver a giant ‘thank you’ card instead,” he added. Besides U.S. PIRG, members of the coalition include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, and food blogger Vani Hari (better known as the “Food Babe”). In her response to Subway’s announcement on Tuesday, Hari tweeted that, “Canceling plans to deliver petitions never felt so good.”

Subway announced this past June that it would remove all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from its sandwiches, salads, soups and cookies in North America by the end of 2017. Besides the transition to sourcing antibiotic-free turkey and chicken starting next year, the company plans to phase out serving pork and beef raised with antibiotics by 2025. “A change like this will take some time, particularly since the supply of beef raised without antibiotics in the U.S. is extremely limited and cattle take significantly longer to raise. But we are working diligently with our suppliers to make it happen,” said Dennis Clabby, executive vice president of Subway’s purchasing cooperative. Clabby added that the company hoped others in the industry would follow Subway’s lead and “drive suppliers to move faster to make these important changes for consumers.” Founded in 1965 in Bridgeport, CT, Subway is a family-owned company which currently serves made-to-order sandwiches and salads at more than 44,000 franchised locations in 111 countries.

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