Campaigners are calling on retailers to ensure responsible use of antibiotics for all meat and dairy products they sell, after research found many failed to have the right policies in place.
A new report from the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics reveals that not all animal-derived foods on the shelves are covered by supermarket antibiotic policies.
Often imported, branded or processed products are not covered, the groups say, meaning retailers could sell meat, dairy or eggs produced with overuse of antibiotics.
Scientists fear that antibiotic resistance, caused by the overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, is increasing at a faster rate than previously thought.
According to the medical journal The Lancetin 2019, it was directly responsible for the deaths of more than one and a quarter million people worldwide and linked to the deaths of almost five million people.
Nearly 30,000 people have signed the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics petition calling on Britain’s eight major supermarkets to ban the misuse of agricultural antibiotics in their stores.
The alliance delivered the petition to retailers on Friday morning (February 18), calling on them to urgently improve the scope of their antibiotic policies.
It asks everyone to ensure that their policies cover all animal products, regardless of country of origin or product line.
The campaign group also calls on companies to only sell branded products that have been produced with the responsible use of antibiotics.
Supermarkets invited to take action include Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.
The alliance’s scientific adviser, Cóilín Nunan, said they needed to make sure the standards they set applied equally to imported and branded foods.
“This is particularly important now as the government seeks new trade deals with non-EU countries which often have weak regulations governing the use of antibiotics on farms,” he said.
“The top ten supermarkets now ban the routine preventive use of antibiotics for most or all of their own-brand UK fresh produce.”
He added: “The actions of supermarkets have undoubtedly contributed to a significant reduction in the use of antibiotics on UK farms over the past six years, which is very welcome.
“However, our latest review revealed that these improvements did not cover the full range of products sold in supermarkets.
“In particular, they often did not apply to some or all imported, processed or branded products.”