Costco has updated its animal welfare policy to address the responsible use of medically antibiotics in its meat and poultry supply chain. This new policy was developed with the goal of addressing the growing problem of antibiotic resistance worldwide.
Costco’s new policy will limit the use of medically important antibiotics “to therapeutic use for the prevention, control, and treatment of disease." It will not allow the use of antibiotics for the purposes of growth promotion or feed efficiency.
Costco has given itself two years to develop and apply assessment protocols for the new policy and intends to set a target date for “mandatory and monitored” compliance before December 2020.
The new policy was developed after engagement with social responsibility non-profit As You Sow, which filed a shareholder proposal with the retailer this summer.
“We are particularly encouraged by the company’s plans to create mechanisms through which they will be able to verify supplier compliance with their antibiotics policy,” Christy Spees, environmental health program manager at As You Sow, said. “This is a significant undertaking, and one that we hope will cause a ripple of change in the meat industry and set a standard for other retail chains.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both consider antibiotic resistance to be one of the biggest public health threats today and recognize the misuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry as a “significant contributor” to the problem, according to a press release from As You Sow. In some countries, reports WHO, the livestock sector is responsible for 80 percent of the total consumption of medically important antibiotics, largely used for growth promotion in healthy animals.
In 2013, data showed that antibiotic resistance was killing more people worldwide than AIDS. One 2014 report projected that antibiotic resistance would be the cause of 300 million premature deaths by 2050.
"You can look at antibiotic resistance as a slow moving global train wreck, which will happen over the next 35 years," health law expert Kevin Outterson at Boston University told Scientific American.
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