Antibiotics in meat

December 29, 2016

Every consumer should know the meat they eat when dining out in chain of restaurants in the country or when travelling abroad.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health facing us today. About half of the antibiotics produced globally are used in agriculture, with much of this being used to make animals grow faster and to prevent rather than treat disease.

Despite worldwide concern about the overuse of antibiotics, their use in agriculture is due to increase by two thirds by 2030: from 63,200 tonnes of antibiotics in 2010, to 105,600 tonnes in 2030.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria spread from farms to people through air, soil, water, manure and the consumption of meat and animal products. Frequent antibiotic use results in more bacteria becoming resistant, reducing the drug’s efficacy to treat an infection. This results in antibiotics becoming less effective over time and eventually useless.

The World Health Organization is co-ordinating the international response through its Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Along with addressing overconsumption of antibiotics in human medicine and promoting the development of new drugs, changes in farming practices are on the agenda for policymakers around the world.

Government action is not enough however, businesses, civil society and consumers will need to play a role.

Multinational food businesses with global supply chains are in a position to drive changes faster than legislation alone.

This is one of the campaigns by the Consumer International and the Consumer Council of Fiji as a member.

This year’s World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) campaign message is calling on KFC, McDonald’s and Subway to make global, time bound commitments to stop sourcing meat from animals routinely given antibiotics has been delivered to over two million people.

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week and the Consumers International (CI) strengthens its call for global fast food chains to take action by ending the routine use of antibiotics important for human medicine across all meat and poultry supply chains.

According to Consumer International, if urgent action is not taken to tackle antibiotic resistance we could face a future where common infections and minor injuries can kill again.

The consumer movement has been increasingly vocal on the topic of overuse of antibiotics in agriculture.

Consumers International and its members have been calling for international action since 2014.

As public awareness of the health implications of antibiotic resistance grows, consumers are waking up to the dangers posed by the practice of routinely mass administering food animals with antibiotics used in human medicine.

In a World Health Organization survey of 12 countries, 73 per cent of respondents agreed that farmers should give fewer antibiotics to animals.

There is a strong case for businesses such as global restaurant chains to take a lead.

Restaurant chains should source meat from animals that have been raised without the routine use of antibiotics that are used in human medicine.

This must include all antibiotics listed by the World Health Organization as critically important.

By eliminating non-essential uses of antibiotics, and by improving standards in order to prevent the need for antibiotics arising, farmers can help to preserve the effectiveness of essential drugs for humans.

Antibiotics that are used in human medicine should only be used in veterinary medicine to treat sick animals and, on rare occasions, for non-routine disease control if disease has been identified in other close contact animals.

Antibiotics that are used in human medicine should never be used for growth, feed efficiency, or for routine disease prevention.

As indicated by the World Health Organization, deaths from antimicrobial resistance are predicted to reach the millions by the middle of the century.

By 2050, Consumer International notes that antimicrobial resistance could kill 10 million people a year, more than cancer.

Also, by 2050 antimicrobial resistance could push an additional 28.3 million people into extreme poverty and it could increase global healthcare cost by more than $1 trillion per year.

With Netherlands reduced its antibiotic use in farm animals by 50 per cent from 2007 to 2015, it is now one of the lowest levels of antimicrobial resistance in the world.

There are encouraging signs of at least Netherlands succeeding but government action alone is not enough, we all have a role to play.