Report: The Message from Consumers in Japan:
Stop using Antibiotics at Animal Farms!
– We asked fast food companies to reply to our questionnaire –
July 20, 2016
“The antibiotics won’t work…” Isn’t it rather unbelievable to hear about such a crisis for modern medicine? If no action is taken, resistance to antibiotics and similar drugs (antimicrobial resistance) will cause 300 million deaths a year globally by 2050. Massive overuse of antibiotics has increased the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Whilst over-consumption of antibiotics in human medicine is a huge problem, what is less well known is that around half of the world’s antibiotics are consumed by farm animals. In many cases animals are not given the drugs because they are sick, but because producers want them to grow faster, or to prevent illness from spreading amongst animals raised in poor conditions. Is meat from such cattle, pigs and chicken really safe to eat?
Consumers Union of Japan decided to send a questionnaire to food companies including fast food chains, convenience stores and family restaurants that sell a lot of different meat products in Japan.
The aim of our investigation was to get a clear picture of how globalization has influenced the fast food industry in Japan, and how food safety is being dealt with at fast food chains and restaurants operating in this country. Our questionnaire included a number of issues, but in this report we will focus on the question: Does the company have a policy for not using antibiotics for animal growth promotion? These foods are imported legally and sold in Japan, even as they are causing an increased level of concern worldwide.
About the questionnaire:
Many consumers are wondering, “Is the food made by this company really OK?” when eating out or purchasing it at a supermarket or a convenience store. There is no choice but to believe in the information provided, regarding food safety. But we also have doubts that a corporation pursuing profits will be making all kinds of fanciful statements.
Consumers International (CI) and its Members are calling on multinational restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, KFC and Subway, to make global commitments to end the routine use of antibiotics important for human medicine.
Specifically, in February 2016 a CI report found that McDonald’s, KFC and Subway currently fall far short in their response to the global antibiotic resistance health risk. We need to use this opportunity to tell McDonalds, KFC and Subway that they must act to:
- Define a global, time-bound action plan to phase out the routine use of antibiotics important in human medicine across all meat and poultry supply chains
- Show progress by adopting third-party auditing of their antibiotics use policies and publishing the results.
Replies from companies in Japan: “Do you use meat from animals given antibiotics for growth promotion purposes?”
McDonald’s: “Our company uses a global feed standard and restricts the use of antibiotics in the US, but the animals in other countries are raised following the rules in each country. The beef used in Japan comes from cattle raised in New Zealand and Australia, and we follow the Japanese Food Hygiene Law and the local regulations for animal drugs and feed additives as well as the global standard. Pork used in Japan comes from the US and chicken from Thailand. Also for these products we follow the global standard and local regulations.”
CUJ comment: The above reply does not confirm that McDonald’s does not use antibiotics as for the purpose of growth promotion in animal feed, but rather that it is possibly being used routinely. There seems to be no real concern for antibiotic resistance and the need to phase out the routine use of antibiotics important in human medicine, or to adopt third-party auditing as called for by CI.
KFC: “All chicken we sell in Japan are being raised at farms in Japan. Antibiotics and antimicrobials are not used for the purpose of growth promotion.”
CUJ comment: This reply from KFC clearly denies using antibiotics, but we cannot be sure that this is the case. We also do not know if they use antibiotics important in human medicine in the case when birds get sick, and if they use it for the entire flock or just administer it to individual birds. Third-party auditing as called for by CI would be an assurance that they understand the seriousness of the issue of antibiotic resistance.
Subway: “We do not use antibiotics as drugs to cattle for the purpose of growth promotion.”
CUJ comment: This reply from Subway clearly denies using antibiotics, but we cannot be sure that this is the case. We also do not know if they use antibiotics important in human medicine in the case when birds get sick, and if they use it for the entire flock or just administer it to individual birds. Third-party auditing as called for by CI would be an assurance that they understand the seriousness of the issue of antibiotic resistance.
Freshness Burger: “We can confirm that there is almost no use.”
CUJ comment: It can be said that the level of awareness about antibiotics is high.
Mos Burger: Antibiotics and antimicrobial agents are being used to different degrees to treat disease depending on the type of illness, and we use the drugs properly according to the situation.”
CUJ comment: This is not a direct reply to our question, so we contacted their consumer hot-line for clarification. They confirmed that they currently use antibiotics for meat production.
“KFC, Subway and Freshness Burger all appear to have gone to great length to avoid using antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion at their respective animal farms,” says Michiyo Koketsu, CUJ.
“On the other hand, McDonald’s did not reply that they do not use antibiotics in this way, and Mos Burger clearly said they use antibiotics. McDonald’s in the US has stated that they will move away from using antibiotics for growth promotion for chicken, so there is a chance that McDonald’s in Japan will also move in this direction sooner or later. We strongly support Consumers International’s global campaign to lobby these corporations to move away from routinely using antibiotics in animal feed for the purpose of growth promotion.”
Contact: Michiyo Koketsu