A total of 10 large US and British restaurant groups have been targeted by a campaign of 54 large investors, to curb the use of antibiotics in meat and poultry.
McDonald's, Domino's Pizza Group and The Wendy's Company were among those having received the letter. They are being asked to set a timeline to stop the usage of medically important antibiotics in their supply chains.
Other restaurant groups included are JD Wetherspoon's, Brinker International, Darden Restaurants, Mitchells & Butlers, Restaurant Brands International, Restaurant Group and Yum! Brands.
Investment groups state issue threatens public health
The investment groups together manage about US$1.41 trillion. Among the investors backing the request are Aviva Investors, Coller Capital, Boston Common Asset Management, Impax Asset Management and EdenTree investment Management. They state that if the restaurants would fail to follow their recommendations, it would threaten investor returns and public health.
The campaign is led by the London, UK-based Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) Initiative and responsible investment charity ShareAction.
Also interesting: On-farm antibiotic use under threat from Brussels
Further restrictions on the use of antibiotics in farm animals are in the pipeline, following a vote by MEPs on new rules for veterinary medicines. This could be especially problematic for the poultry sector.David Burch, a veterinarian with over 40 years experience, looks the the banning of collective and preventive antibiotic treatment of animals in the EU and how in his opinion that equals to "attempting to cripple EU agriculture by over-restriction of the use of antibiotics".
WHO warnings on antibiotic overuse
The move follows warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) that the world is moving towards a post-antibiotic era in which many infections would no longer be treatable because of the overuse of antibiotics.
Jeremy Coller, chief investment officer of Coller Capital, said, "These large food companies are key ingredients in the portfolios of most of our pensions and savings, thus it is a case of proper risk-management to ask them to work out how they will meet this challenge."
He continued, "The world is changing, regulation on antibiotic use is set to tighten and consumer preferences are shifting away from factory farmed food. As stewards of these food companies and responsible investors, we want to protect both human health and shareholder value."
Also interesting: No shortcuts in antibiotic reduction
The reduction of antibiotics in livestock production is an inevitability. The question is now how and when it will be achieved and to what extent. What is clear is that there can be no shortcuts in this process.
Only using antibiotics to treat disease
Press agency Reuters reports that Domino's Pizza Group spokeswoman Nina Arnott said the company's suppliers only used antibiotics when necessary to treat disease, under veterinary supervision, and that they are not used to prevent disease or boost livestock growth.
"We are also encouraging our suppliers to reduce the use of antibiotics for therapeutic purposes, and trials are under way to assess the feasibility of achieving this goal," she said.
McDonalds told Reuters that it had received the letter and would respond to the coalition.