A coalition of 54 institutional investors, which manages funds totalling $1 trillion, has called on 10 UK and US restaurant chains including McDonald’s, JD Wetherspoon, Wendy’s and Domino’s Pizza Group to curb antibiotic use in their global meat and poultry supply chains.
The investors, which include Aviva Investors and Coller Capital, have written to ten companies asking them to set appropriate timelines to prohibit the use of all medically important antibiotics within their supply chains.
Half of the 10 companies who received the letter on 15 March have no publicly available policies in place to manage or mitigate antibiotic overuse, while none of the companies have a fully comprehensive policy in place on tackling antibiotic overuse, according to a report by the investor group Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return and charity ShareAction.
The letters follow warnings from the World Health Organization that irresponsible practices are pushing us towards a “post-antibiotic era”.
In response to the campaign, JD Wetherspoon said that growth-promoting substances, including antibiotics, were already banned across all of its livestock supply chains.
Domino's Pizza Group said that antibiotics were used "only when necessary to treat diseases.
"This is done under strict veterinary supervision," Louise Butler, a spokeswoman for Domino's said. "Antibiotics are not used to prevent disease or as a growth promoter. We are also encouraging our suppliers to reduce the use of antibiotics for therapeutic purposes and trials are under way to assess feasibility of achieving this goal."
"McDonald's announced in 2015 that in the US and Canada, we would only source chickens raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. And since 2001 in Europe, we have been monitoring, controlling and reducing the use of antibiotics among chickens in our supply chain. In fact, we have a policy, which bans the use of the highest priority critically important antibiotics for human medicine (as designated by WHO) in our chicken supply chain by 2018," a spokesperson for McDonald's said.
"As you can imagine, agricultural practices and regulations vary around the world, so we believe it would be premature to set meaningful global timelines. We will continue to work closely with our suppliers and industry experts toward achieving our Global Vision."
The other companies written to by the investor coalition were Brinker International Restaurants, Darden Restaurants, Mitchells & Butlers, Restaurant Brands International, The Restaurant Group, The Wendy's Company and Yum! Brands.
"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. 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," Jeremy Coller, founder of the FAIRR Initiative and the chief information officer of Coller Capital, said.