At the time of writing, a bill is making its way through Parliament called the Agriculture Bill. If passed, it could alter Britain’s current food and agriculture standards detrimentally. The well-known chef Jamie Oliver has written an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing his grave concerns. He believes that the new Bill will negatively impact the nation’s health as well as the UK agriculture industry. His letter was published in the Mail Online, access it here.
Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton proposed an amendment to the Bill to safeguard Britain’s farmers and consumers. This sought to protect UK farmers from low-standard food imports. Unfortunately, this amendment didn’t pass. The Bill now passes to the House of Lords for scrutiny.
My personal view is that this Bill is a retrograde step with regard to antibiotic use in farming. There is a link between the use of antibiotics in agriculture and general antibiotic resistance in humans. In the UK at the current time approximately 35% of antibiotic use is in farming.
In USA, nearly 80% of antibiotics are used in agriculture. The table below shows a comparison in antibiotic use in farming between the USA and the UK.
For every species, the USA uses more antibiotics than the UK. This pattern is likely to be repeated if we allow unfettered access to the UK food market from countries around the world.
The UK government targets to reduce agricultural antibiotic consumption significantly in the national 5 year AMR action plan 2019 to 2024. In 2019, the UK national average consumption of antibiotics in farming was 37 mg / kg, a 40% reduction in five years. The aim is to reduce this level by a further 25% by 2020.
Now is completely the wrong time to consider slackening our food standards. The current COVID-19 pandemic started in the human food chain. This demonstrates in a tragic way what happens if there are insufficient food hygiene controls. Importing food into the UK from countries that have lower antibiotic use standards in farming is a levelling down rather than a levelling up. It will lead to more, not less antibiotic use in farming and as a consequence make UK citizens less than rather more healthy.
Take a look at our information about antibiotics, antibiotic resistance and farming.
What can you do?
If you don’t want to see UK food standards relaxed and especially not see meat imported from high antibiotic use countries there are things you can do:
1) Sign Jamie Oliver’s petition HERE
2) Write to your local MP
3) JOIN our charity and help us in our fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria.