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Home arrow News arrow Antibiotic Alarm: UK Campaign Urges Stricter Controls in School and NHS Catering

Antibiotic Alarm: UK Campaign Urges Stricter Controls in School and NHS Catering

HealthReporter author Nadzeya Sankovich
Written by Nadzeya Sankovich
Last update: October 12, 2023
1 min read 561 Views 0 Comments
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Antibiotic Alarm - UK Campaign Urges Stricter Controls in School and NHS Catering

Key Takeaways:

  • Caterers, including those serving hospitals and schools, have been criticized for weak or non-existent policies on antibiotic use, potentially contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
  • The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA) emphasizes the need for the government’s purchasing power to enforce stricter controls on antibiotic use in public service contracts.

Campaign groups are calling for increased efforts to curb antibiotic overuse in animals, particularly in the food supply chain for schools and the NHS. 

A study reveals that caterers supplying these institutions lack strong policies on antibiotic use, posing a risk of antibiotic resistance, which can render vital human medicines ineffective.

In a report by the Alliance, 10 leading UK catering companies, such as Apetito, ISS, and Compass Group UK, were found to have inadequate policies regarding antibiotics in their publicly available food procurement guidelines. 

The absence of a ban on antibiotic use raises concerns about the effectiveness of controls in preventing antibiotic overuse.

Despite voluntary measures being cited as effective by the government and suppliers, ASOA argues that catering companies are falling behind supermarkets and other sectors in setting stringent standards. 

The study also revealed that there is no current requirement for responsible antibiotic use in the government’s public sector procurement standards, which cover NHS, armed forces, and prisons.

Critics point out that even Defra, the department leading efforts to reduce antibiotic use on farms, has a contract with a company criticized in the report. 

The Alliance’s scientific advisor, Cóilín Nunan, suggests that the government’s considerable purchasing power could be leveraged to promote better controls on antibiotic use.

A Global Perspective

Antibiotic overuse is a global concern, with superbugs emerging due to the misuse of antibiotics in both human medicine and agriculture. 

An assessment in the medical journal The Lancet warns that more than 1.25 million people worldwide die each year from drug-resistant infections. In the UK alone, over 7,500 deaths result from such infections.

While the government cites a 55% reduction in antibiotic use in food-producing animals since 2014 and an 83% decrease in critical antibiotics, critics argue that more decisive action is necessary. 

With the looming threat of superbugs, campaigners stress the importance of stricter controls on antibiotic use to safeguard human health and the efficacy of life-saving medicines.

Why It’s Important to You

Understanding the threat of superbugs and the need for stricter antibiotic controls is crucial for everyone’s well-being. It directly impacts your health by ensuring that medicines remain effective in treating illnesses and preventing the spread of drug-resistant infections.


  1. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. (2022, November 8). Lowest ever sales of livestock veterinary antibiotics recorded in UK. GOV.UK.
  2. HM Government. (June 2023). UK Biological Security Strategy. GOV.UK.
  3. Ghosh, B. M. P. a. P. (2023, October 12). Schools and NHS caterers ‘must stop’ antibiotic overuse. BBC News.
  4. Naghavi, M. (2022, January 20). Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019:
    a systematic analysis. Lancet 2022; 399: 629–55.
Written by Nadzeya Sankovich
Nadzeya Sankovich is the Vice President of Communications at Health Reporter. Previously a professional journalist, she continues to write scientific articles and conduct research. With a background in sociology and medicine, she has worked with various healthcare organizations, from charities to telemedicine platforms.

Nadzeya is also a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and a volunteer for a non-profit organization that helps underserved communities. Through her work, she empowers people to take charge of their health and well-being.
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