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As higher levels of ESBL producing bacteria were detected in Danish poultrymeat, the Danish authorities called on the EU to follow their example and ban use of ‘cephalosporins’ for veterinary purposes.

Since 1995, the DANMAP survey has measured the use of antibiotic medicines in the Denmark, both for veterinary purposes and in the human population It has also tracked the occurrence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria from food animals, food and humans.

The recently published 2011 DANMAP survey indicated an increasing presence of ESBL or ‘extended spectrum β-lactamase’ in Danish poultrymeat. ESBL-producing bacteria are resistant against treatment with a number of categories of antibiotics, including cephalosporins, which are widely used in human medication. These findings led to calls by the Danish authorities for the use of cephalosporins in treating livestock to be banned in all EU Member States.

Although the use of cephalosporins was banned in the Danish poultry industry a decade ago, the presence of ESBL in poultrymeat has shown a significant increase in recent years. Unlike their pig producing colleagues, many Danish poultry farmers use imported ‘parent animals’ which have undoubtedly been a factor in the spread of ESBL bacteria.

The Danish pig industry initiated a voluntary ban on the use of cephalosporins during 2010 as a precautionary measure. The DANMAP 2011 survey confirmed that the ban had been effectively implemented in the field and surveillance at Danish abattoirs showed a significant reduction in the occurrence of ESBL producing bacteria, which fell from 12.0% in 2010 to just 3.6% in 2011.