Risk factors

Antibiotics

For decades, protein companies have used antibiotics – including those critically important to human health – to help animals achieve slaughter weight and as a way to prevent infection from unhygienic crowded conditions. Companies are increasingly facing pressure from public health advocates, regulators and consumers to shift away from a reliance on routine use of antimicrobials.

Key stats

77
%
of companies, valued at $250 billion and with revenues of $260 billion, are categorised as ‘high risk’, including 22 who have no policy on antibiotics use and do not disclose the quantities or types of antibiotics used on their farms.

Antibiotics are a critical part of modern medicine. Their irresponsible use in livestock and fish production systems, however, is rendering them ineffective against resistant bacteria, endangering human health and the global economy.

The routine use of antibiotics is prevalent in all protein production systems, including beef, pork, poultry, dairy and farmed fish.

Companies that do not use antibiotics responsibly will increasingly face regulatory risks. From 2022, the European Union will ban the use of human antibiotics in veterinary medicine. In July 2019, India banned the use of colistin – a ‘last resort’ antibiotic – on farms. The Chinese government has also launched a pilot to eliminate use of antibiotics in livestock by 2020.

They will also lose market access, as global food companies such as McDonald’s and Yum Brands adopt responsible use policies across species.

McDonalds and Yum! Brands have recently committed to reducing antibiotics use in their beef supply chains. But Marfrig is the only beef company that has a policy limiting antibiotics use. McDonald’s and Yum! Brands purchase from at least 14 other Index companies, including JBS, Hormel Foods and Tyson Foods.

We assess all companies on the strength of their antibiotics policies (that is, whether they prohibit routine use of antibiotics) as well as disclosure on the quantities of antibiotics used.

Results

  • The 60 companies in the Index scored an average of 20% on responding to antibiotic risks, indicating a continued lack of engagement on this important issue.
  • Only four companies – Bakkafrost, GFPT, Lerøy Seafood, Marfrig Global Foods – have committed to ending routine use of all antibiotics in farm animals.
  • McDonalds and Yum! Brands have recently committed to reducing antibiotics use in their beef supply chains. But Marfrig is the only beef company that has a policy limiting antibiotics use. McDonald’s and Yum! Brands purchase from at least 14 other Index companies, including JBS, Hormel Foods and Tyson Foods.