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UK MPs call for supermarket action on farm antibiotics

12 October 2016  •  Author(s): Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics

Zac Goldsmith MP has tabled an Early Day Motion on veterinary antibiotic use in the UK.

The Early Day Motion (EDM) – for which there are five cross-party secondary sponsors including Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas – encourages MPs to join the call for action on antibiotics from UK supermarkets.



This EDM has been submitted after a recent study commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics and conducted by the University of Cambridge revealed the presence of E.coli bacteria resistant to three highly important antibiotics across UK-origin pig and chicken meat from major supermarkets.

This revelation, along with the discovery in October of MRSA on UK supermarket pork, provides further evidence that the overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming is fuelling the emergence of resistant bacteria and undermining the treatment of dangerous bacterial infections in humans.

On the back of these finding, the EDM calls on UK supermarkets to ban the routine preventative mass medication of groups of animals within their supply chains, and to dramatically curb farm use of antibiotics classified as ‘critically important’ for humans by the World Health Organisation.

Zac Goldsmith MP said: “The recent revelation of multi-drug resistant bacteria in supermarket meat lends a new urgency to the need for supermarkets to tackle antibiotic overuse in their supply chains. The routine preventative mass medication of animals should have no place in the supply chain of any responsible retailer. I have no doubt that UK supermarkets will rise to this challenge, and will strive to ensure that the destruction of our antibiotics does not happen on their watch.”

Following the findings of antibiotic resistant bacteria on UK supermarket meat, the Food Standards Agency pledged to work with supermarkets to cut farm antibiotic use. In addition, Waitrose updated their antibiotic-use policy in September to state that they are working towards significant year on year reductions in usage of all antibiotics, and will end the use of all ‘critically important’ antibiotics in their supply chains as soon as possible. However, the routine mass-medication of groups of livestock – before disease has been diagnosed in any animal within the group – is still permitted by most UK supermarkets.

Emma Rose from the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics said: “In September this year, thousands of UK citizens called for supermarkets to ban the routine mass medication of groups of livestock (a practice which currently accounts for about 88% of UK farm antibiotic use) and to curb use of the ‘critically important’ drugs.

Now, MPs are expressing their concern around the lack of adequate supply chain policies on antibiotic-use. Supermarkets must commit to tackling this issue, and support farmers to reduce and improve veterinary prescribing.”

The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics is encouraging individuals to contact their local MP and request that they sign the EDM and support the call for supermarket action on antibiotics.


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