Every week brings a fresh story about the threat to human health from growing antibiotic resistance. The World Health Organization has warned that we face a post-antibiotic era, in which we no longer have effective treatment against bacterial infections. If urgent action is not taken to tackle antibiotic resistance we could face a future where common infections and minor injuries can kill again.
Antibiotic resistance is driven by overuse of existing medicines. With over half of the world's antibiotics being consumed by animals, antibiotics in farming is a major contributing factor. Despite this, the use of antibiotics in agriculture is predicted to grow by two thirds: from 63,200 tons in 2010 to 105,600 tons in 2030.
Tuesday 15th March is World Consumer Rights Day. Consumers International and its Members are using this day of action in order to call on KFC, McDonald's and Subway to make global, time bound commitments to stop serving meat from animals routinely given antibiotics that are classed as important for human medicine by the World Health Organization.
McDonald's has made such a commitment on chicken in USA and Canada. The commitment does not extend to other types of meat however, nor to other countries outside of North America. Subway has committed to stop serving meat from any animal given antibiotics in the USA. KFC has made no meaningful commitments anywhere.
Of course we would like to see other restaurant chains, as well as meat suppliers and retailers, make global time bound commitments to stop selling meat from animals routinely given antibiotics important for human medicine. We are focusing on these three chains because they have over 100,000 restaurants between them. It is about more than simple buying power however, these are global household names with the ability to influence markets even where they have fewer outlets.
This World Consumer Rights day is about calling for major global brands to act responsibly. Antibiotic resistance is spreading in every region of the world. Left unchecked, antimicrobial resistance will kill 10 million a year by 2050. Given the scale of the global public health crisis the world is facing due to antibiotic resistance, making partial commitments is inadequate. KFC's efforts so far have been token and McDonald's and Subway must go much further.
As global brands KFC, McDonald's and Subway are in a strong position to set the standard for their industry globally and drive a decrease in agricultural use of antibiotics, faster than legislative change alone.