One of the RUMA conference Gold Sponsors, Sainsbury’s, shares how it is working to tackle AMR

RUMA is delighted to welcome the support of Sainsbury’s as one of our GOLD sponsors for the forthcoming RUMA conference, which is being held online on the 18 November 2021. Tickets are available for purchase via this link.

RUMA asked Matt Turner, Agriculture Manager at Sainsbury’s, to share the ways the retailer is working to tackle AMR. Matt’s work focuses on improving the health and welfare of animals in the Sainsbury’s supply chains and ensuring the responsible use of antimicrobials.

Asked why Sainsbury’s is sponsoring the RUMA 2021 Conference, Matt says: “RUMA is an invaluable industry body which provides leadership and momentum to continuously improve the responsible use of medicines on farm. The cross-sector working that RUMA drives is unique and has proven incredibly successful. It brings the industry together and their conference this year has a superb line-up of speakers and sessions covering a variety of responsible use topics. RUMA’s role and remit aligns to the work Sainsbury’s undertakes in tackling AMR which makes the conference a natural fit with us. The conference will help highlight the great achievement so far and will help shape ongoing discussion and action to support the industry to achieve its targets.”

Matt Turner shares excerpts from the Sainsbury’s Antibiotic Report 2021:

Antibiotic resistance is a major public health issue, predicted to cause 10 million deaths by 2050 (more than cancer!). The UK agricultural industry has reduced total antibiotic use by 50% since 2014, and the use of critically important antibiotics by 75% since 2014.

Sainsbury’s is committed to ensuring antibiotics are used responsibly through supporting farmer training, research and monitoring usage. We have a robust antibiotic policy which means:

  • antibiotics cannot be used to promote growth
  • they cannot be used routinely to prevent disease
  • critically important antibiotics can only be used as a last resort, if needed to safeguard animal welfare

At Sainsbury’s we recognise our farmers are facing the growing challenge of antibiotic resistance and we have an important role to play in promoting responsible use. To help reduce reliance on antibiotics, we’re working closely with our farmers to minimise their use in three key ways:

Continuing to improve health and welfare: The health and welfare of animals within our supply chains is extremely important to us, and, for many years, we’ve worked hard to ensure we meet the high standards our customers expect. For example, we were the first major UK retailer to commit to only selling cage-free shell eggs; we invested substantially in research to support reducing the confinement of sows in indoor pig production and we sell more RSPCA Assured products than any other retailer. We also know that high standards of animal health and welfare are essential for enabling farmers to reduce their use of antibiotics. We work with our farmers to ensure their focus is on effective management and veterinary health planning, which will help them keep their animals healthy. We also measure animal health and welfare outcomes which allows farmers to benchmark themselves against industry standards and encourages a continuous cycle of learning and improvement. 

Using antibiotics responsibly: We’re working with industry bodies and organisations such as RUMA, and the veterinary community, to promote the responsible use of antibiotics and help our farmers understand how reducing antibiotic use on their farm can contribute to tackling global antibiotic resistance. Our standards strictly prohibit the routine use of antibiotics, and the use of antibiotics for the purpose of increasing growth and production. We ensure antibiotics are reserved only for when they’re the best way to keep an animal healthy. All our farmers also adhere to strict rules which ensure the meat, milk and eggs our consumer buy from us do not contain traces of antibiotics. In addition, we’re focusing on reducing the use of antibiotics which are considered critically important to human health (as defined by the European Medicines Agency). We minimise the use of these critically important antibiotics (CIAs) within our supply chains, promoting the responsible use of the most appropriate antibiotics.

Research and data: We believe collecting robust and representative data is key to helping farmers reduce their antibiotic usage and increase our understanding of what causes resistance. To achieve this, we’re working in partnership with other UK retailers, supply chain partners, scientists and health professionals to promote responsible use, to collect data and tackle the issue of antibiotic resistance together for example, via the newly launched Medicine Hub. Combining the insights we gather with health and welfare outcome data is allowing us to develop a fuller picture of the situation and identify ways we can improve animal health and how antibiotics are used.

RUMA Targets

In 2017 the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) published a series of antibiotic usage targets to focus efforts to reduce antibiotic use towards 2020. Back then this was a totally new concept, as was measuring antibiotic use in this way for most people, but everyone across agriculture has worked together to reduce, refine and replace antibiotics to ensure the RUMA targets are achieved. In fact, for the first set of targets for 2020, many sectors met their targets two years early due to the collective effort of everyone involved, particularly farmers and vets working to improve animal health and find new ways of treating disease which don’t rely on antibiotic treatment. Sainsbury’s has been working closely with our farmers since the RUMA targets were published in 2017 to collect and monitor antibiotic use in our supply chains and continues to do so today aligned to the latest set of RUMA targets.


Sainsbury’s overarching goal is to ensure antibiotic use within our supply chains is below the RUMA 2020 targets, and to continue to reduce use further where this is possible. It’s important to recognise that there will be fluctuations in antibiotic use over time, and antibiotics will sometimes be needed in higher amounts where they are the best line of defence to protect animal health and welfare. This means there may be some years when antibiotic use is above the RUMA 2020 target for a good reason, such as a specific disease or industry wide issue, but our long-term goal is to keep antibiotic use below these targets most of the time. We also want to ensure the limited use of antibiotics deemed critically important for human health (CIAs), so we only allow these to be used as a last resort where needed to protect animal welfare. We’ve made great progress reducing the use of CIAs in recent years, including completely eliminating CIA use in many of our supply chains through working closely with our farmers and their vets. It’s been more of a challenge in some sectors than others, and we are leading the way in sectors like beef and lamb where there is a lack of available data across the whole industry. Despite these challenges we’ve made some incredible progress and our data demonstrates what can be achieved through close collaboration with our farmers.

Content for this article is taken from excerpts of the Sainsbury’s Antibiotic Report 2021 with kind permission from Sainsbury’s. The full Sainsbury’s Report can be read here: Antibiotic Report V9.pdf (

The RUMA Conference:

The Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) conference, is being held online on Thursday 18 November 2021. Tickets are available for purchase via this link. The event has a packed programme covering:

  • the positive story of responsible use of medicines in UK farming
  • an introduction to the new RUMA organisation for companion animals and equine and its objectives
  • a look ahead to the UK animal medicines legislation
  • the international context for the responsible use of medicines
  • the story of the UK’s high health and welfare standards in international trade discussions
  • a look ahead to the next challenges for responsible use of animal medicines

There is a fantastic line-up of highly respected industry speakers from the UK and overseas who will be providing insight into a variety of responsible use topics, and there will also be an opportunity to put forward questions throughout the day. Secure your place today via this link .