An investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), ITV and The Guardian has revealed that three of the UK’s biggest supermarkets are selling chicken meat from a poultry producer in Poland that is using fluoroquinolones and colistin, which are antibiotics classified as highest-priority critically important in human medicine.
Asda, Iceland and Lidl are buying frozen chicken products from SuperDrob, a major Polish meat supplier. SuperDrob was the source of a major outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in the UK in 2020, which killed five people and infected around 1,300 others.
The company denies that it is using the antibiotics prophylactically, which would be a breach of the new EU legislation banning group prophylaxis which came into force in 2022, but it admits that fluoroquinolones and colistin are used on its farms.
TBIJ tested samples of waste collected from a number of Polish poultry farms that have supplied SuperDrob, and discovered bacteria, including E. coli, resistant to fluoroquinolones.
The testing was overseen by Tim Walsh, professor of medical microbiology at Oxford University. He described the findings as “seriously worrying” – and said UK supermarkets “have a duty of care” to consumers when it comes to their sourcing.
Cóilín Nunan, of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said “Highest-priority critically important antibiotics, like the fluoroquinolones and colistin, are massively overused in Polish farming. European Medicines Agency data shows that 38% of total European farm fluoroquinolone use and 26% of total European farm colistin use occurs in Poland. The UK government, the Food Standards Agency and supermarkets should all take responsibility for ensuring that food produced with such gross misuse of life-saving antibiotics does not reach the British consumer.
The government also needs to end all group treatments with highest-priority critically important antibiotics. Since all treatments in poultry are group treatments, this means that none of these antibiotics should be ever be used in poultry farming.”
Interview with Experts: "Towards food-animal systems which are not dependent on antibiotics" - an opinion piece by Amit Khurana and Rajeshwari Sinha, Centre for Science and Environment, India31st July 2023