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4. Follow the Danish way

The use of antibiotics in livestock production remains a regular topic of public debate. The ‘European Antibiotics Awareness Day’ in November was soon followed by a government sponsored report calling on further initiatives for a more prudent approach by livestock producers, along the lines of that adopted by the Danish farming industry over many years.

The 'European Antibiotic Awareness Day' is an annual communications programme, sponsored by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control , representing a network of EU public health bodies. This year’s initiative was launched on 18th November and the campaign press release issued highlighted concerns about the continuing spread of antibiotic resistance, to which overuse of veterinary medicines is adjudged to be a factor.

Calls for more prudent use of antibiotics


The event coincided with other media coverage (Daily Mail Telegraph) on a report published in The Lancet about the recent discovery of bacteria in livestock in China which are resistant to the polymixin class of antibiotic treatments. One of these antibiotics, colistin, is used as a treatment of ‘last resort’ in human medicine and is also used in pig production in some EU countries, particularly Germany, Spain and Italy. Small quantities of colistin are currently used in Denmark but research to date has not highlighted any significant resistance problems in livestock.

More prudent use of veterinary medicines

Denmark’s performance in eliminating unnecessary use of veterinary medicine in livestock is regarded as exemplary in many quarters. In addition to using less medicines overall, Danish farmers have already phased out the use of cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, both of which are widely used in human medicine. The industry has also committed to finding alternative treatments to tetracyclines, whose use fell by 20% in the first six months of 2015.

The annual DANMAP survey in Denmark has tracked the use of antibiotics and the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in livestock, the food chain and the human population since 1996 and has informed many initiatives taken to ensure more prudent use of veterinary medicines.

The DANMAP report for 2014 highlighted that pig producers reduced the overall use of antibiotics by 5% compared to the previous year. The latest information from the European Medicines Agency confirms that Denmark is the lowest user of veterinary medicines among the EU’s main pig and poultry producing countries.


Denmark among Europe’s lowest users of veterinary medicines


In the UK, new guidelines for the use of veterinary medicines were published in October by the Pig Health & Welfare Council and the Pig Veterinary Society. The main focus was to introduce more formal processes for the review of antibiotic treatments on individual farms.

Danish experiences

December saw the publication of the 3rd Report under the 'Review of Antimicrobial Resistance' entitled 'Reducing unnecessary use and waste'. The Review was established by David Cameron in 2014 and its purpose was to encourage public debate about more prudent use of antibiotic medicines for treatment of human and animal disease across the globe.

View from The Grocer

The report references many of the Danish pig industry’s initiatives to eliminate unnecessary use of antibiotics, commenting that:

"Denmark has combined low use with being one of the largest exporters of pork in the world.”

"Denmark reduced its antibiotic consumption more than any other country in Europe, but it had the second highest growth rate in agricultural productivity, with this increasing by 65 percent against the European average of just 25 percent in the same period."

"It is very difficult for governments and international bodies to observe what type of use a farmer is undertaking, or even the amount of antibiotics they are using. Checking this requires some sort of oversight, which countries like Denmark have invested heavily in, but other European states have mostly ignored.”