Survey shows lack of commitment to antibiotic reduction in food outlets
Published:  14 February, 2017

Food outlets are being called on to demonstrate a commitment to reducing the use of antibiotics in company supply chains. 

This comes after an Ask the Q survey showed that 61 restaurant, pub, café and fast food chains have shown a widespread lack of dedication to reducing usage.

Ask the Q emailed 61 of the largest restaurant and pub groups, fast food and café chains between September 2016 and January 2017, asking: if antibiotics were routinely used in their meat supply chains to prevent rather than to treat disease; if suppliers restricted the use of Critically Important Antibiotics; and if suppliers used the last-resort antibiotic colistin. Overuse of antibiotics can result in the overuse of microbial resistance in animals, with Ask the Q claiming that the law currently doesn’t address this health issue sufficiently.

It was revealed that 87% (53 out of 61) of the surveyed companies did not make any online mention the responsible use of antibiotics across their meat supply chains.

Out of the firms surveyed, only three shared formal company policies, and only one made its policy publicly available on its website. However, none of the companies were able to explain how they ensured compliance with suppliers.

“Only about half of the companies I wrote to even got back to me and those who did largely hid behind statements about complying with the law,” explained Anya Hart Dyke, founder of Ask the Q.

“Antibiotics misuse has been all over the news for some time now and has long been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the major public health challenges of our times.”

Dyke added that the lack of corporate engagement among some of the high streets’ food outlets was “truly shocking”.

Following on from the survey, Ask the Q is now calling on restaurants, pub, fast food and café chains to publish company policies explaining how they are engaging with their meat and dairy suppliers on the responsible use of antibiotics.
Farm level commitment

While food operators are being called on to do more in reducing antibiotic usage, progress has been made in the commitment to cut it down at farm level.

After consultations with vice-chairman of the National Pig Association (NPA) Richard Longthorp, skills development programme City & Guilds has updated its Safe Use of Veterinary Medicines Certificate of Competence. It now more accurately reflects the livestock industry’s response in dealing with antibiotics.

The qualification is open to anybody who works with agricultural livestock and helps to ensure that best practice is followed when safely and effectively providing basic treatments to animals.

City & Guilds is now republishing its handbook with the additional requirements, and has informed its assessment centres of the changes.

“We are delighted the guidance has been updated,” commented Longthorp, who is also a Yorkshire farmer.

“This means all people who work with livestock now have training and certification available to them that recognises the significant and growing challenge of using antibiotics responsibly. The pig sector is already making great strides in rising to the challenge and this is yet another tool in the armoury to demonstrate our professional approach to safe and responsible use of veterinary medicines.”

Long-term solutions to reducing the usage in the UK’s livestock sector are currently under development.