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Wellcome Trust urged to remove 'shocking antibiotic propaganda' video

17th Nov 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The Wellcome Trust has provoked an angry response from the livestock sector over a misleading video posted to mark World Antibiotic Awareness Week. 

Wellcome vid

The RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture) Alliance has told the Trust the video is factually wrong and could damage certain food products. The alliance has demaded the video's removal, at least while the Trust investigates. 

Zoe Davies, the NPA's chief executive has branded the video a 'shocking piece of propaganda'. 

The short video posted on Twitter opens with the claim: "Your supermarket probably has more antibiotics than your pharmacy... but not where you might think. 

It continues: "Antibiotics are in our poultry, our beef, our pork, our eggs and our milk. 

"Antibiotics are routinely used to increase growth and keep animals healthy. So many antibiotics used in animals are medically important to humans. 

"And as the same bacteria are shared by humans and animals when we get sick it is harder to fight these bacterial infections."

Following further misleading comments about antibiotic usage in the EU and Denmark in particular, the video ends with a call for global action to keep food free of unnecessary antibiotics.

The Trust's Twitter feed has just short of 100,000 followers and at the time of writing the video had been retweeted 287 times, guaranteeing mass coverage. 

Backlash

While nobody will take issue with the final statement, the fact that the Wellcome Trust, a highly-respected organisation that funds many important research projects, could make so many dubious claims in a short video has prompted a fierce backlash. 

This was led by Zoe (@Mrs_Pig) on Twitter, who replied to the Trust's tweet: "Absolutely shocking piece of propaganda this - call yourselves an evidence based science resource?? You should be ashamed."

John Massey (@johnny-boy27) added: "Hey guys I think you might be giving the wrong impression about abx in food chain the the UK, are you aware of UK regs?"

Upland sheep farmer Tom Vickers (‏@TomVickers7) said: "This is a very misleading video, in the UK no meat or milk contains antibiotics, hence mandatory withdrawal periods."

The British Poultry Council (@britishpoultry) said: "The video on antibiotics in supermarkets is outrageously misleading and chooses propaganda over science. We support @RUMA-UK."

Lucy Alice Coyne ‏(@lucyalicecoyne) added: "How is this an evidence based approach when inaccurate misinformation is presented?"

Grant Walling ‏(@Grant_Walling) said: "Come on I expect better from you guys. There are mandatory withdrawal periods to ensure ALL U.K. Meat and milk is AB free."

David Burch ‏@DVETB  told the Trust: "This is awfully misleading, especially in the UK where antibiotic residues are monitored and contamination rates are low."

Simply untrue

RUMA has contacted the Trust to express its concern and to put it right on the video's statements, which it describes as 'simply untrue', and to request that the video is removed.

A RUMA spokesperson said: "We’re very concerned as this video doesn’t just contain misleading information, it contains totally incorrect information which has the potential to significantly damage certain food products.

"We have made our concerns known and are awaiting a response from Wellcome. We are disappointed this has clearly ‘slipped through the net’ and been cleared for broadcast, and hope they will take on board the responsibility of their reputation and take the precautionary measure of at least taking down the film while they investigate."

Wellcome Trust reponse

The Wellcome Trust was unmoved by the furore, insisting there are 'no plans to remove the video'.   
 
A Wellcome spokesperson said: “Antibiotic resistance is a global issue and so we are looking beyond the UK.

"Through the film we aim to raise awareness of the issues to a global audience, and the messages we’ve used highlight problems with antibiotic use in agriculture and food systems around the world.

"These aren’t the only issues related to antimicrobial resistance, and this Antibiotic Awareness Week we are also highlighting overuse in humans through another film we’ve created on antibiotic use in maternal and neonatal health.”

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