Eating Cyprus halloumi could be worse than eating meat because of the high levels of antibiotics Cypriot farmers give their animals, a Swedish food expert has warned.
At a time when many people choose to eat cheese instead of meat for health and environmental reasons, eating halloumi may be a bad choice, according to Anna Richert, food expert at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Talking to Swedish national public TV station Sveriges Television (SVT) earlier this week, she said Cyprus is the country which feeds the most antibiotics to farm animals in Europe, and people should be aware that there are issues of sustainability related with the cheese.
“I think that consumers deserve to know more about this. I think it is a reason to be very careful when choosing products from Cyprus in shops,” she stressed.
Halloumi will be included in WWF’s consumer food guide to be published later in the year and will not get a green light for this reason, she added.
The report will be an updated version of the meat consumer guide and will look more closely at various imported cheeses that replace meat for many Swedes, Richert explained. The WWF will review several cheeses, including halloumi.
“Halloumi is one of the products that replaces meat on the plate. If you think you make a good choice, then it is important to have a good reason,” Richert told the TV station.
“It may actually be that this choice is worse than the piece of meat you chose not to eat. It is a risk that we at WWF want to highlight. We want to help consumers make the right choice.”
According to SVT, the import of halloumi has increased dramatically in Sweden, from just 21 tonnes in 2010 to 4,000 last year. All halloumi is imported from Cyprus where almost 40 times more antibiotics are administered to farm animals than in Sweden.
Halloumi itself does not contain antibiotics and is safe to eat, the broadcaster noted.
In a report this year, the UN coordinating group on antimicrobial resistance warned that if no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy could be catastrophic. By 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.
Currently, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases.