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Perdue poultry halts antibiotic use in hatcheries

One of the largest poultry producers in the United States announced Wednesday that it was stopping the routine use of antibiotics in it hatcheries.

It's the latest step taken by Perdue over more than a decade to deal with concerns about antibiotic use. The widespread use of antibiotics in poultry and other animals raised for human consumption has been linked to increased antibiotic resistance in people.

"The hatchery was the last step we recently accomplished," company chairman Jim Perdue told The New York Times.

"We've gotten calls from different groups watching our products and asking questions about our use of antibiotics, and we thought, 'Why don't we just talk about it openly instead of just talking to one group?'"

By 2007, Perdue had stopped using human antibiotics in feed to promote growth in its poultry. However, the company will continue to give human antibiotics to poultry flocks as needed to control disease outbreaks, a Perdue official said.

Each year in the U.S., at least two million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 die from them, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency called the use of antibiotics in livestock "unnecessary" and "inappropriate."

The Food and Drug Administration is working on draft regulations to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals raised for human consumption, The Times reported.

Perdue's announcement "is a big step from the public health and consumer perspectives," Gail Hansen, senior officer for the Pew Charitable Trust's campaign on human health and industrial farming, told The Times.

"I would like to think it makes the other poultry companies look at what Perdue is doing and say 'Is this something we can follow?'" Hansen added.