The National Pig Association has warned new ‘raised without antibiotics’ labels on bacon must not become a gimmick or confuse shoppers.
The labels, which have the backing of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA), are the brainchild of Spoilt Pig and Brydock Farms.
Under the new high-welfare system, pigs will still receive antibiotics on an individual basis when necessary, but any treated pigs must be sold separately without the antibiotic label.
Coilin Nunan, scientific adviser at ASOA, said: “The Spoilt Pig-Brydock partnership provides an excellent example of how higher welfare standards help reduce the need for antibiotics.
“As the wider pig industry starts to reduce its overuse of antibiotics, let’s hope it is willing to learn from initiatives like this.”
Though acknowledging antibiotic labelling was ‘inevitable’, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said the labels should not be used just to sell a product.
“We are pleased that, in this case, animals can still be treated with antibiotics, but we are concerned consumers will be confused”, she added.
“We need to emphasise all meat is antibiotic-free and avoid any impression that by eating meat, consumers could somehow be exposed to harmful antibiotic residues.”
Ms Davies went on to explain how antibiotic use in the pig sector was falling year-on-year and usage was now being recorded via the eMB-Pigs database.
“There is a major educational campaign underway and encouraging work to find alternatives to antibiotics is underway”, she said.
“All parts of the industry are working together on this and collectively, we are up for meeting the challenge of new long-term antibiotic reduction targets, due to be announced this autumn.”
The reduction targets are being set by individual sectors with help from the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) Taskforce.
Draft proposals will be finalised by the end of June after consultation with specialists, and a completed report will be ready for release at the RUMA conference on October 27.
The new antibiotic labels will appear for the first time this month on Dry Cured Smoked Back Bacon; Dry Cured Unsmoked Back Bacon and Dry Cured Smoked Streaky Bacon in Morrisons; Tesco; Ocado; Costco; Nisa; Budgens; Spar and Amazon Fresh.