US antibiotic levels feared to set back UK-US deal
The use of antibiotics in US farming is alleged to be five times higher than in UK production, according to an investigation by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics.
The figures, discussed at a conference at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, have reportedly shown that antibiotic use in the US is nine to 16 times higher per livestock unit for beef cattle, three times higher for chickens, twice as high for pigs and five times higher for turkeys than in the UK.
The EU currently bans the importation of US beef into the UK, due to the use of growth hormones in US cattle, but some fear that the ban could be lifted in a post-Brexit UK.
The figures, reportedly based on recently published data from the UK and the US, follow comments by the US Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs USDA, Ted McKinney, during the Oxford Farming Conference, when he said he was “sick and tired” of hearing Britain’s concerns about chlorine washed chicken and US food standards.
Suzi Shingler of the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics urged trade negotiators “who may be tempted to lift the ban on US beef” to not only consider the impact of growth hormones, “but also of antibiotic resistance due to rampant antibiotic use”.
She added: “If Mr McKinney wants something to worry about other than chlorine washed chicken, he might want to turn his attention to the extraordinarily high levels of antibiotics used in US meat production.
“Our investigation shows that US cattle farmers are massively overusing antibiotics. This demonstrates the huge advantages of British beef which is often from grass-reared animals, whereas US cattle are usually finished in intensive feedlots.”
Nick Palmer, head of policy at Compassion in World Farming, stated: “The extremely high use of antibiotics in US farming increases the likelihood of resistant bacteria emerging in farm animals.
“As British consumers increasingly reject the factory farming approach that dominates US production, we are concerned that the British Government may cave in to US demands in the desperation to sign new trade deals post-Brexit.”
A Government spokesperson told Meat Management: “Tackling resistance to antibiotics is a priority and we are making excellent progress – statistics released in October showed in the UK there has been a 27% drop in use of antibiotics in food-producing animals since 2014 meeting a government commitment two years early.
“Maintaining safety and public confidence in the food we eat is of the highest priority and any future trade deal must work for UK farmers, businesses, and consumers.
“Any new products wishing to enter the UK market must comply with our rigorous legislation and standards – we will not compromise on animal welfare and food safety.”