Last updated: 26.7.2019

Tesco is part of the Food Industry Initiative on Antimicrobials which has the stated vision of ‘Retailers, manufacturers, processors and food service companies coming together to promote and support responsible antimicrobial use and action on antimicrobial resistance’. The intention of this initiative is to support and engage with existing industry groups working in this area, ensuring work is aligned, avoiding duplication of effort and it has 3 key working groups on Responsible Use, Data and Research & Development.”

The Tesco antibiotic use commitments were developed and published in 2017 to ensure responsible antibiotic use is a key area of focus for our supply chains. These commitments were developed with our supply chain and industry experts.

1. We restrict the use of the highest priority “critically important” antibiotics for human health (fluoroquinolones, 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporin’s and colistin) as defined by the European Medicine Agency in our supply chain and make sure these antibiotics are used only as a treatment of last resort, where no other viable treatment is available to prevent animal welfare issues. We are working with our suppliers to reduce the use of other critically important antibiotics, including macrolides.


Restricting the use of highest priority “critically important” antibiotics (HPCIAs) has been an area of focus for our dairy and shell egg supply chain for some time. This has also been added to the Tesco Welfare Approved standards for all meat. We have seen a reduction in in the use of HPCIAs and the complete elimination of key classes (e.g. Colistin) in the pig and poultry sectors. However, these key classes remain available to our supply chains where there is no other viable treatment to ensure the welfare of the animals is not compromised.

2. We work with our suppliers to make sure there is no unauthorised use of veterinary medicines, including antibiotics, in our supply chain.


No unauthorised use of veterinary medicines, including antibiotics, is permitted in our supply chains under our Tesco Welfare Approved standards. We verify this through our regular animal welfare audit programme and have found all farms to be compliant

3. We do not allow the routine use of antibiotics for prophylactic purposes in our supply chain. Preventative treatment is only allowed where animals are diagnosed at high risk of bacterial disease, and must only occur under prescription by a veterinarian on the basis of epidemiological and clinical knowledge in line with Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA).


The Tesco Welfare Approve standards bans the routine use of antibiotics for prophylactic purposes for meat and shell eggs. This initially led to higher levels of recorded non-conformances at farm level in some of our supply chains. We have worked with our farmers and suppliers to address this and have found a significant improvement in compliance since.

Across the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group and Tesco Cheese Group selective dry cow therapy was introduced in August 2018 to reduce the antibiotic use in teat sealing. This prevents routine use of antibiotics to prevent mastitis.

Tesco’s target is for farms to increase the proportion of cows receiving selective dry cow therapy by at least 10% of the herd per year until all eligible animals are only receiving teat sealant and no antibiotic treatment. Reducing antibiotic dry cow therapy is a key area to reducing total antibiotic use in our dairy supply chain.

4. We measure antibiotic use in our supply chain. We have made antibiotic usage and records a key feature of our farm audit programme. Visibility of records of any antibiotic usage at Tesco supplying farms is required to enable us to monitor levels of use and to help target reduction strategies.


We continue to embed antibiotic reporting across our supply chains. The maturity of reporting varies by sector and by geography. All sectors across our supply base now report usage. This facilitates evaluation of absolute usage and trend changes based on outcome measure data.

Statistically significant trend reductions in mean usage have been achieved to date in those sectors where data sets have been in place for 2+ years. It is anticipated that the relative rates of mean reduction will inevitably slow as usage declines over time and in some sectors this is already evident.

In order to ensure continuous improvement we are now focussing on understanding outliers in terms of antibiotic use and working with these suppliers to understand and address the specific challenges they face in usage reduction.


Current Mean Value (Global Supply Base)

% Change since Tesco reporting commenced

Data sets are available for

Broiler Chickens

4.87 mg/kg

- 51.4% *

4 years


13.63 mg/kg

- 38.8% *

2 years


0.96 mg/kg

+  24.6% ^

2 years


0.52 dose

- 46%*

3 years


60.05 mg/PCU

- 73%

3 years


85 % course of treatments

- 37%

4 years

The above data was provided by our suppliers and internal verification has taken place as part of our audit programme. This data has not been independently validated.

There has been a marginal increase in total antibiotic usage within the duck supply chain in the last 12 months. This is not a statistically significant finding and does not represent a trend increase. Usage was and remains low. It does however, illustrate a challenge in reporting when figures are at consistently low levels.  In these circumstances the effect of small variance becomes amplified, but this should not be confused with statistically significant uplifts in use.

5. We will implement the UK species specific targets for antibiotic reduction (as defined by RUMA and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate) in our supply chain. From 2018, once we have sufficient data to establish a baseline, we will make sure that each of our animal sector supply chains have targeted reduction strategies in place to make sure they meet the specific national target for that species.


The global reduction in use in the Tesco supply base either meets or exceeds UK sector equivalents as reported by  Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS)  which was published in October 2018,

Where this is not the case the differential comparison is not significant (due to limited size of Tesco supply base or lack of directly comparable figures in VARSS data (e.g. continental pork).

6. We will help build farmers capability on antibiotic use and animal health in our supply chain, to help them to reduce use without compromising animal welfare. We will work with our Product Partners, wider suppliers and other bodies to identify the right educational approaches and the best ways to share this knowledge among farmers.


This is a key area of focus for each Tesco Sustainable Farming Group. Workshops have been held across the Tesco Sustainable Farming Groups with farmers and in our dairy supply chain with the vets that support the farmers. Joint working groups between our UK and European poultry supply base have taken place to disseminate best practice. 

7. We will support Research and Development (R&D) opportunities that will help drive the reduction of on farm antibiotic use. With our Product Partners we are already working with the Government Agri-tech Centres of Innovation to identify R&D opportunities.


We worked with Oxford Research Consultancy to review our pig supply chain, looking at best practice and how we could best support our farming supply base. Our supply chains have been conducting trials with the aim of improving herd health.  These include vaccine, water and production trials.