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Investors warn of antibiotic risks

Leading food and restaurants brands have been urged to reduce the level of antibiotic use in their meat supply chains or risk seeing their market valuation suffer.

Financiers including Aviva Investors, Strathclyde Pension Fund and Coller Capital called on brands such as McDonald’s, Burger King and JD Wetherspoon to reduce their dependence on antibiotics used to promote growth and prevent disease in animals, in a letter seen by The Guardian.

There is growing evidence to suggest that the liberal use of antibiotics in livestock for reasons other than curing disease is contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans.

The investors highlighted the reputational risks facing food businesses that fail to act to reduce antibiotic dependence in light of growing consumer awareness of the issue. They also noted that slow-moving businesses may be caught out by future regulations to curb the use of antibiotics, which could in turn negatively impact their market value.

Antibiotic resistance has moved rapidly up the sustainability agenda over the past year prompting some foodservice companies to pledge publicly to reduce their use. Last year, McDonald’s announced its intention to phase out all use of antibiotics considered critically important to human health, while Subway has announced plans to serve only antibiotic-free meat by 2025.

The issue has even caught the attention of Prime Minister David Cameron who has commissioned a Review on Antimicrobial Resistance that is due to report its final findings this summer.