A group of institutional investors managing a combined $1 trillion on Tuesday called on restaurant chains to end the systematic use of antiobiotics in their meat and poultry supply chains.
The companies targeted by the group of 54 investors include J D Wetherspoon, McDonald's and Domino's Pizza.
The investors said the use of antibiotics in livestock causes resistant bacteria to develop, which in turn can spread to humans.
"The investors are responding to warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) that irresponsible antibiotics practices are leading the world towards a 'post-antibiotic era' where routine operations will no longer be possible and many infections no longer treatable," they said in a statement.
The investors, brought together by the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) initiative, said none of the companies targeted had any comprehensive policy of tackling the overuse of antibiotics and this posed "a significant risk to their investment", they said.
"These large food companies are key ingredients in the portfolios of most of our pensions and savings - thus it is a case of proper risk management to ask them to work out how they will meet this challenge," Jeremy Coller of Coller Capital, one of the signatories, said in the statement.
Investors fear the cost of expected tighter regulation from governments in the face of antbiotics overuse, but also warned that the reputation of restaurant chains stands to suffer as they are "contributing to a global threat to human health which currently kills an estimated 700,000 people per year".
"We hope this engagement will help drive up standards in the sector and highlight the financial risks at stake to other companies and investors," said Nadira Narine at ICCR.
Other chains targeted are Brinker International Restaurants, Darden Restaurants, Mitchells & Butlers, Restaurant Brands International, The Restaurant Group, The Wendy's Company and Yum! Brands.
The 54 institutional investors include Aviva Investors, Boston Common Asset Management and Natixis Asset Management.
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