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Food Standards Agency pledge to cut antibiotics use

Supermarket Superbugs - Campaign Update

The Food Standards Agency have pledged to cut the use of antibiotics following the launch of our ground-breaking Supermarket Superbugs campaign. 

The Food Standards Agency has got it right meanwhile; the British Retail Consortium has got it wrong. Very wrong! The industry response to antibiotic resistance testing from the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics has been very interesting to say the least.

Yesterday, the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics (of which we are a founding partner along with Compassion in World Farming and Sustain) launched ground-breaking new research revealing soaring levels of drug resistant E.coli on UK origin supermarket chicken and pork meat.

Following the release of these results, the Food Standards Agency has pledged to cut the use of antibiotics on farms acknowledging the ‘significant threat’ to human health from antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and pledged to cut the use of antibiotics on farms. This is an amazing response to our campaign!

Emma Rose from the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics said; “'It's fantastic the FSA has pledged to work with food businesses and retailers to reduce farm antibiotic use. With antibiotic resistance predicted to kill one person every 3 seconds by 2050, the FSA must commit to ending the routine mass medication of groups of animals. Such practices are putting our health at risk - and have no place in the supply chains of responsible UK supermarkets.

“Worryingly and in contrast to the FSA response, the British Retail Consortium said yesterday that “Mass treatment of animals is not legally permitted.” This is, of course, incorrect. In fact, mass medication accounts for about 88% of UK farm antibiotic use [1], and is likely to be par-for-the-course within supermarket supply chains. Upon learning that they are mistaken in their assertion, I expect the BRC to call for a ban on the routine mass medication of groups of animals immediately.”

The Soil Association warmly welcomes this move from the Food Standard Agency.  For over 30 years, we have been warning that the overuse of antibiotics in farming is seriously undermining human health – now this is accepted, we need urgent action from supermarkets and the UK Government.

Overuse of antibiotics in farming is contributing to deadly drug resistance - a crisis predicted to kill one person every 3 seconds by 2050. You have the power to stop this, by taking action right now. This catastrophe is now unfolding before us, and supermarkets have remained silent for too long. Tell supermarkets to crack down on antibiotic abuse in their supply chains.

The study, commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics and carried out by scientists at Cambridge University, looked at 189 UK-origin pig and poultry meat samples from the seven largest supermarkets in the UK (ASDA, Aldi, Coop, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). It tested for the presence of E. coli which are resistant to the key antibiotics for treating E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in people. The highly resistant ESBL E. coli was found on chicken meat from all of the supermarkets. A fully referenced press release is available here

References

[1] Mass medication accounts for about 88% of UK farm antibiotic use (premixes, ie. in feed, and water medication together account for about 89%), see p29 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/477788/Optimised_version_-_VARSS_Report_2014__Sales___Resistance_.pdf ). The European Medicine Agency's report on farm antibiotic states that virtually all premixes and oral powders (for medication via water) is for mass medication: see p 26 of http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Report/2015/10/WC500195687.pdf