Campaign to curb antibiotic use in food

Fifty four large investors managing STG1 trillion ($A1.

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87 trillion) in assets have launched a campaign to curb the use of antibiotics in the meat and poultry used by 10 large US and British restaurant groups.

McDonalds and JD Wetherspoon were among those to receive a March 15 letter from institutions including Aviva Investors asking them to set a timeline to stop the use of medically important antibiotics in their supply chains.

The other eight approached were Domino’s Pizza Group , Brinker International, Darden Restaurants, Mitchells & Butlers, Restaurant Brands International , Restaurant Group, The Wendy’s Company and Yum! Brands.

The move follows warnings from the World Health Organisation that the world is moving towards a post-antibiotic era in which many infections would no longer be treatable because of the overuse of antibiotics.

Eighty per cent of antibiotics produced in the US are given to livestock, the coalition said in a statement, adding that failure to confront their “irresponsible” use threatens both health and investor returns.

“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,” said Jeremy Coller, chief investment officer of Coller Capital.

“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.”

Drug-resistant infections could cost the world about $US100 trillion in lost output by 2050, the coalition statement said, citing recent academic research.

Domino’s Pizza Group spokeswoman Nina Arnott said the company’s suppliers only used antibiotics when necessary to treat disease, under veterinary supervision, and that they are not used to prevent disease or boost livestock growth.

“We are also encouraging our suppliers to reduce the use of antibiotics for therapeutic purposes, and trials are under way to assess the feasibility of achieving this goal,” she said.

McDonalds said it had received the letter and would respond to the coalition.