Investors Enter the Food Policy (Antibiotic) Debate

Financial investors.  Not the group of folks I'd necessarily list first as those turning the tide on our food system.  But that's exactly what's happening this week as a group of "Fifty four large investors managing 1 trillion pounds ($1.41 trillion) in assets have launched a campaign to curb the use of antibiotics in the meat and poultry used by ten large U.S. and British restaurant groups."

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"The financiers, including Aviva Investors, Strathclyde Pension Fund and Coller Capital, are particularly concerned about the use of antibiotics classified as “critically important” to human health and the routine use of drugs on factory farms to prevent disease."  The group issued letters to several companies including McDonald's, JD Wetherspoon, Domino's, Burger King and several others. 

This campaign comes on the heels of a food safety outbreak and the public's resistance to an antibiotic known to treat the illness.  Investors have noted that there are several reasons for this campaign, including negative PR, forthcoming regulations, and a growing concern that antibiotics affect our future health and economy.

Many companies have yet to respond but Domino's Pizza Group spokewoman Nina Arnott had this to say:

"the company's suppliers only used antibiotics when necessary to treat disease, under veterinary supervision, and that they are not used to prevent disease or boost livestock growth...We are also encouraging our suppliers to reduce the use of antibiotics for therapeutic purposes, and trials are under way to assess the feasibility of achieving this goal."

It's fascinating to see if and how corporate investors can turn the tide on these issues.  Of course those who hold stock in a company have an increased level of overall influence - perhaps a new stakeholder group for food policy advocates to engage in the many national food debates.