Fifty-four institutional investors have written to 10 food companies, urging them to cut out non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in their meat supply chains.
With more than £1 trillion in assets under management, investors including Aviva, Coller Capital, the Strathclyde Pension Fund, Christian Super, NorthStar, Mirova and Natixis, were brought together by the UK-based Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return Initiative (FAIRR) and charity Share Action.
The investors either wrote to all 10 companies, or focused on a few from the list, which includes McDonalds, JD Wetherspoon, pub chain Mitchells & Butlers, KFC-owner Yum! Brands and the Domino’s Pizza Group. Letters asked the companies to set a timeline to prohibit the use of all medically important antibiotics in their global meat and poultry supply chains.
The move follows warnings from the World Health Organisation that many infections could become untreatable because of the overuse of antibiotics in livestock.
In their letter, investors pointed out that 80 percent of antibiotics produced in the US are given to livestock, and irresponsible use threatens returns and human health.
“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,” said Coller Capital chief investment officer Jeremy Coller.
“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.”
The UK’s National Office of Animal Health’s chief executive Dawn Howard said banning, rather than limiting, the use of some antibiotics could lead to outbreaks of disease among animals that would otherwise be difficult to control.
Last year, a UK government-funded report by former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill found that antibiotics used to treat and prevent disease in livestock are increasing the risk of drug-resistant strains being passed on to humans by animals.
FAIRR was established by Jeremy Coller to raise awareness of investment risks and opportunities connected with intensive livestock farming and poor animal welfare standards.
Other signatory investors include Barrow Cadbury, EdenTree Investment Management and Sustainable Investment Partners.