A new report from the Sustainable Farming Trust (SFT) has warned a US-UK trade deal will threaten the progress which has been made in recent years on antibiotic resistance.
The document, Maximum Growth: Whatever the Cost, claims banning hormone-treated beef will not be enough to protect UK consumers given US cattle, pig, chicken and turkey farms are routinely using four antibiotics which have been banned in the UK for all purposes.
Two other antibiotics which have never been permitted domestically are also frequently used by US farmers.
The drugs are used at low levels in feed for prolonged periods to make animals grow faster and/or suppress diseases of intensification in beef feedlots and other farms, creating ‘ideal conditions’ for the development of antibiotic resistance.
In a letter to Defra Secretary George Eustice, SFT policy director and author of the report, Richard Young, said: “Given the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance, it would be completely irresponsible if the Government were to allow the importation of beef, pork or poultry meat produces with the use of antibiotics for growth promotion which have been banned here, or the use of antibiotics which are licensed in the UK, but used in the US in ways which would be illegal here.
“UK farmers have made major strides in recent years to reduce their use of antibiotics and play their part in helping to hold back the rise of untreatable infections due to antibiotics resistance.
“Allowing the importation of meat produced in ways not allowed here would be a major slap in the face for British farmers and a seriously backward step in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.”
The EU is proposing to ban all preventative use of antibiotics in groups of animals from 2022, and require producers exporting chicken to the bloc to do the same.
According to the report, while the UK Government accepts preventative use needs to be reduced, it ‘appears reluctant’ to support this move from the EU.