11 Apr 2016

Investors campaign to curb antibiotic use in food

2:26 pm on 11 April 2016

Fifty-four large investors have started a campaign to curb the use of antibiotics in the meat and poultry used by 10 large American and British restaurant groups.

McDonalds, Domino's Pizzas and Restaurant Brands International are among the companies to receive a letter from the institutions asking them to set a timeline to stop the use of antibiotics in their supply chains.

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A vet checks birds inside a poultry farm (file) Photo: 123 RF

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

The coalition said 80 percent of antibiotics produced in the US were given to livestock, adding that failure to confront their "irresponsible" use threatened 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."

Full list of companies approached by the coalition:

  • McDonalds
  • JD Wetherspoon
  • Domino's Pizza Group
  • Brinker International
  • Darden Restaurants
  • Mitchells & Butlers
  • Restaurant Brands International
  • Restaurant Group
  • The Wendy's Company
  • Yum! Brands

Drug-resistant infections could cost the world about $100 trillion in lost output by 2050, the coalition statement said, citing recent academic research.

Among other investors to sign the letter were Boston Common Asset Management, Impax Asset Management and EdenTree Investment Management.

Domino's Pizza Group spokeswoman Nina Arnott said the company's suppliers only used antibiotics when necessary to treat disease, under veterinary supervision, and they were 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.

In a written response dated 24 March, JD Wetherspoon said that growth-promoting substances, including antibiotics, were already banned across all of its livestock supply chains.

Mitchells & Butlers said the use of antibiotics in livestock production was an important issue and the company was reviewing the matter across all species as part of its sourcing policy.

The Restaurant Group, meanwhile, said that it ensured responsible animal welfare standards throughout its supply chain and it was a strict requirement of suppliers' contracts that antibiotics were used only for the treatment of disease.

McDonalds said it had received the letter and would respond to the coalition. Yum!, Restaurant Brands, Wendy's, Darden and Brinker did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

- Reuters

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