MPs urged to take action on antibiotic use

An Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled by Zac Goldsmith MP on veterinary antibiotic use is encouraging MPs to join the fight against the overuse of antibiotics in animals from which UK supermarkets source their meats. 

The motion is already being supported by former Shadow Defra Secretary Kerry McCarthy and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

An Alliance to Save our Antibiotics campaign, conducted by the University of Cambridge, prompted this EDM. Research showed the presence of E.coli bacteria resistant to three highly important antibiotics across UK-origin pig and chicken meat from major supermarkets.

The revelation supports the concept that the overuse of antibiotics in animals is resulting in resistant bacteria, which pose a threat to human health. Just this month, MRSA was found in UK supermarket pork.

Reacting to these findings, the EDM is asking UK supermarkets to stop sourcing products from mass-medicated animals within their supply chains and to encourage farms to halt the use of antibiotics considered to be ‘critically important’ for human health by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“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,” said Goldsmith. “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.”  

In light of recent events, Waitrose has updated its antibiotic-use policy to confirm it was working towards significant year-on-year reductions of antibiotic usage.

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

“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.”

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