Over the past two years, civil society-led consumer campaigns have convinced McDonald’s, Subway and KFC, among others to commit to sourcing chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics. Overall, livestock sales of antibiotics important to human medicine dropped 14% percent in the United States from 2015 to 2016, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Building on these successes, US PIRG is now pushing companies to take similar action on beef and pork, starting with McDonald’s, the country’s biggest buyer of beef. The fast food chain recently shared a vision for phasing out the routine use of antibiotics in its entire global food chain, but its timeline for implementation remains vague. As part of the campaign, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund is gathering signatures on a petition urging McDonald’s to take action and holding public awareness events in front of McDonald’s franchises across the country.
Center for Science in the Public Interest
CSPI calls upon the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef to make antibiotic effectiveness a sustainability priority
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wrote a letter to the board of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) to criticize the group for denying CSPI’s membership application and failing to prioritize antibiotic effectiveness on its sustainability agenda. CSPI calls out the USRSB for being led by industry groups and not including civil society groups representing consumers in the sustainability conversation, thereby excluding their unique perspectives on food safety, antibiotic stewardship, and public health. Members of the beef and “allied” industries, including restaurants and pharmaceutical companies, comprise the USRSB. Although it is open to civil society members, the group currently does not include organizations representing consumers. In its letter, CSPI urges the USRSB, as a global leader in sustainability, to include responsible use of antibiotics to maintain their effectiveness as a high priority sustainability goal. The letter also asks for the group to provide specific, meaningful, and verifiable metrics for beef producers to benchmark improvement.
ReAct Asia Pacific held a photography contest for students in India during World Antibiotic Awareness Week. Submissions from all over the country and several medical schools were received addressing the themes of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotic abuse, One Health approach and Food as Medicine. The aim of the contest was to spread the awareness about the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance and engage students, professional bodies and interest groups on action on antibiotic resistance. ReAct Asia Pacific plans to establish “Antibiotics Awareness” clubs in educational institutions to increase awareness about and to promote leadership in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Centre for Science and Environment releases status report on Double Standards, Antibiotic Misuse by Fast Food Companies
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) recent report highlights the double standards held by fast food companies which are making commitments to reduce the routine use of antibiotics used for their food animal products in the United States, but not in India. CSE calls for extending the global trends to eliminate antibiotic use on food animal production to India beginning with foreign multinational brands. CSE’s recommendations include that:
- Fast food companies must make time-bound and aggressive India-specific commitments to eliminate or phase-off antibiotic use in their supply chains;
- While fast food companies must take a lead, policy makers must also undertake necessary measures to address the issue of antibiotic use in food animals beyond the fast food industry;
- Producers of food animals like poultry and fish, which supply to the fast food companies, are typically big and few. They should pro-actively support the commitments made and adopt practices which reduce dependence on antibiotics; and
- Similarly, big institutional buyers such as hotels, hospitals, airlines and railways should also work towards developing similar policies and commitments of sourcing food from animals.
CSE’s report quickly made headlines in India with articles in the Financial Express and The Hindu among others discussing the recommendations and quoting CSE project leads such as Amit Khurana who described how “Seven multinational brands and one Indian brand did not respond to (CSE) at all. While some others shared their practices of sourcing and testing, they did not specify any timelines by which they planned to eliminate antibiotic misuse.”
In response to the CSE report, KFC put out a statement that “as part of our strict adherence to robust safety practices and processes, chicken supplied to KFC India is free from any antibiotic residue, as our chicken supplies are subjected to a withdrawal period specific to each medicinal treatment,” However, in the US, KFC has gone beyond focusing on residues and committed to stop the use of antibiotics important to human medicine in its chicken by the end of 2018. These double standards gave policy momentum to the CSE report and helped propel the issue into the news.
On a positive note, days after the CSE report was launched, Jubilant FoodWorks Limited which operates Domino's Pizza and Dunkin' Donuts in India announced and made public its new policy on the usage of antibiotics in poultry. The policy aims to eliminate the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics by 2018 and the use of the highest priority critically important antimicrobials as defined by the WHO from its poultry by 2019. Amit Khurana responded to this announcement, stating that "This commitment by a fast food major shows that stopping antibiotic misuse is not difficult. It is very much achievable in a short span of time, particularly by big multinationals as they know how to do it from their experience in other countries".