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Antibiotics still in focus

At EU level, EFSA, the European Food Safety Agency is co-ordinating action among the Member States and The European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control staged the 2nd European Antibiotic Awareness Day during November. The European Consumer Organisation, with its network of NGOs across Europe, has also been actively campaigning for the EU livestock industry to reduce its use of antibiotics.

In the UK, the main campaigning activity takes place under the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics.

The UK already has a ‘5 Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy in place and the Department of Health recently published a progress report, in which a key priority was identified as the improvement of baseline data on the prescription of antibiotics and trends in resistance. the Danish model.

BPEX recently announced an ‘Action Plan’ aimed at “reducing the amount of antimicrobials used without jeopardising national herd health”. The plan also includes better data collection and identification of high users of veterinary medicines. Current guidelines for responsible use of antibiotics for treating pigs are laid down by RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture).

In Germany a number of new initiatives to reduce the use of antibiotics were announced during 2014, co-ordinated by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection & Food Safety (BVL).

In Holland, MARAN, the organisation responsible for monitoring the use of antibiotics in the livestock industry, announced that the objective to halve antibiotic use in the period 2009 – 2013 was achieved a year ahead of schedule.

In Belgium, a goal to halve the current level of antibiotic use by 2020 was announced and various initiatives will be established by the Center of Expertise on Antimicrobial Consumption & Resistance in Animals (AMCRA).

In the US, the agricultural industries have strongly resisted the introduction of controls on the use of antibiotics in livestock. However, in September, President Obama announced a ‘National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria’ The initial measures will include a withdrawal of the use of ‘critical’ antibiotics solely for growth promotion purposes in livestock and poultry. In Denmark, a ban on the use of ‘antibiotic growth promoters’ took effect in the year 2000 and a similar restriction was introduced in all EU countries six years later.

According to the annual DANMAP survey, the use of antibiotics in Danish agriculture increased in 2013, mainly due to increased usage in pigs. However, use of antimicrobials is still 12% lower than in 2009 and is very low compared to most other major pig and poultry producing countries.

Those campaigning for a reduction in the use of antibiotics by the livestock industry frequently cite the many initiatives taken by the Danish authorities and farmers to eliminate unnecessary use of antibiotics, including:

  • The separation of prescription of veterinary medicine from its commercial sale (in 1995)
  • The establishment of a national database VETSTAT to provide reliable information on the use of veterinary medines by farmer, animal species and prescribing vet (in 2001)
  • Legal restrictions on the use of fluroquinolones (in 2009)
  • A voluntary ban on the use of cephalosporins (in 2010)
  • A ‘Yellow Card’ system to identify higher users of veterinary medicines (in 2010)
  • An industry strategy to halve the usage of tetracyclines (in 2014).

A review of the recent initiatives taken by the Danish industry was described in a recent article in Feed International magazine.

As reported in The PigSite in December, there were recent calls from Denmark for a more concerted global attempt to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock. This followed several months of public debate on an MRSA strain, CC398, which is present in pigs. Although its presence primarily represents an ‘occupational hazard’ for those coming into close contact with livestock, and new hygiene protocols have been introduced on farms. There is no evidence that it presents a significant foodborne risk and, compared to other non-livestock related strains, it has only been responsible for a small number of MRSA related infections in Denmark.

Danish Crown recently announced an ‘All Free Pig Trial’ with five pig producers on the island of Bornholm, who will deliver finished pigs for slaughter who have not been treated with antibiotics. If any pigs need medical treatment, they will be treated as necessary but will be delivered to the local abattoir separately from the nontreated animals.