A press release issued by Grand National sponsors Randox Health about testing meat at Aintree for antibiotic residues has been strongly criticised for inaccuracies, misrepresentation and its potential to cause confusion.
The RUMA Alliance, which promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals, says Randox Health has failed to acknowledge that all use of antibiotics in farm animals in the UK is strictly regulated, with withdrawal periods observed to avoid presence in meat, milk and other products from food-producing animals.
It also confuses residue testing with the separate issue of antibiotic resistance and provides incorrect information on antibiotic use in food-producing animals which is, in fact, reducing rapidly in the UK.
RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald says: “In what appears to be an ill-conceived PR stunt by Randox Health’s food diagnostics division, the wrong risk and the wrong facts have been communicated.
“It is irresponsible and incorrect to imply a consumer would be harmed by antibiotics from any farm produce when residue levels have been very tightly controlled for decades.
“Regarding the altogether different issue of antibiotic resistance, its relationship to the testing of the meat for residues is bewildering. Antibiotic resistance is complex enough already; it should be a moral duty to clarify the facts rather than cause further confusion or, worse still, seek to use it for economic gain.”
Other concerns are expressed around sensationalist wording such as ‘epidemic’, and the incorrect attribution of a rise in human prescriptions for critically important antibiotics to food animals, when in fact farm animal sales of all antibiotics, including high priority ones, have fallen.
RUMA has contacted Randox Health, seeking to urgently clarify its concerns, but no response has been received.