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Antibiotics still in the spotlight

The debate on use of antibiotics in livestock production enables the Danish pig industry to profile its endeavours to eliminate their unnecessary use in its production.

The overuse of antibiotics in both human medicine and livestock production came under the spotlight again during a recent conference held in Copenhagen (‘Combating Antimicrobial Resistance – Time for Joint Action’) under the current Danish EU Presidency.

The WHO used the occasion to publish a new report (‘The Evolving Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance’), advocating more rational use of antibiotics in human and animal medication.

The conference also allowed the Danish pig industry to showcase all the work done over the last decade or so to eliminate the unnecessary use of antibiotics in livestock production in Denmark – where the use of antibiotics per kg of meat produced has halved since the mid-1990’s and use by the pig industry fell by over 20% following the introduction of a ‘yelllow card’ system by the authorities, targeting farmers using ‘above average’ amounts of medicine.

Not wishing to be upstaged, the Soil Association launched another report calling on more restrictions on the use of antibiotics for livestock, suggesting that high use of antibiotics in the livestock industry was leading to the development of resistant E.coli bacteria ( ‘E.coli superbugs on farm and food’). Several of their recommendations for action have already been implemented in Denmark, including a ban on the use of antibiotics on a ‘preventative’ basis and use of antibiotics, such a fluoroquinolones and cephalosporins, which have a ‘critically important’ role in human medicine.