US restaurant chains urged to stop antibiotics support

By Aaron McDonald

- Last updated on GMT

Evidence suggests antibiotic overuse in meat could spell disaster for human medicine
Evidence suggests antibiotic overuse in meat could spell disaster for human medicine

Related tags Antibiotic resistance Us Beef Lamb Pork Poultry Processing and packaging Innovation

A $1 trillion coalition, made up from 54 institutional investors, has called for 10 of the largest restaurant chains in the US, as well as the UK, to stop sourcing meat from suppliers that use antibiotics.

Among the restaurants that received a letter from the scheme are: McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza Group and The Wendy’s Company.

The programme was brought together by the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) Initiative and investment charity ShareAction, and is supported by US investor group ICCR and US non-profit As You Sow.

The programme was developed in response to warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) after claims that irresponsible antibiotic operations would lead to negative impacts, including routine operations being no longer possible and many infections not being treatable.

Post-antibiotic era

There is mounting evidence that antibiotic overuse in global meat and poultry supply chains can have an impact on human resistance to these vital drugs,​” said Mara Lilley, campaigns officer at ShareAction and author of the report: ‘The restaurant sector and antibiotic use’.

But shockingly, five of the 10 giant global companies we looked at have no clear policy on antibiotic use in their meat supply chains. We are very pleased to see investors drawing on this research to inform a much-needed conversation with companies they invest in about safe use of antibiotics in the meat sector. These are well-known restaurant brands producing food that millions of us consume every day, and they need to be operating responsibly.​”

According to the initiative, around 80% of all antibiotics produced in the US are given to livestock. It also highlighted that research indicated that drug-resistant infections could cost the world around $100t in lost output by 2050.

Further investigations suggested the use of antibiotics in livestock is creating antimicrobial-resistant bacteria that could be spread to humans, whilst antibiotic-resistant bacteria are transferring between animals and humans more frequently than initially thought.

Public health catastrophe

This $1.5t investor coalition sends a powerful message to corporations that this issue is firmly on the investor radar, and that the current state of play must change,​” commented Nadira Narine, programme director, strategic initiatives at ICCR.

Consumer concern about antibiotic resistance and demand for meat produced without routine antibiotics has increased significantly. We hope this engagement will help drive up standards in the sector and highlight the financial risks at stake to other companies and investors. Companies can improve their market position by adopting policies to reflect these consumer preferences.​”

The involved investors are concerned that if irresponsible antibiotic use is not addressed, then their investments could be subject to significant risk.

Protect shares

The paper acknowledged that half of the ten restaurants approached have no publicly available policies in place to manage or mitigate antibiotic overuse in their supply chains, whilst none of the companies have an in-depth policy on tackling overuse.

These large food companies are key ingredients in the portfolios of most of our pensions and savings – thus it is a case of proper risk management to ask them to work out how they will meet this challenge,​” explained Jeremy Coller, founder of the FAIRR Initiative and chief information officer of Coller Capital, one of the 54 investors.

The world is changing, regulation on antibiotic use is set to tighten and consumer preferences are shifting away from factory farmed food. As stewards of these food companies and responsible investors, we want to protect both human health and shareholder value.​”

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