The government has launched a five-year national strategy aimed at curbing the rise of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria – but acknowledges that human medicine is the main driver in resistance.

The strategy calls for better monitoring of antibiotics use and incidences of resistance; improving education surrounding prescription and consumption, as well as encouraging the development of new antimicrobial drugs in both human and animal health.

It says that “increasing scientific evidence”, suggests human consumption of medicine is the main cause of resistance in people, but use in livestock is “an important factor contributing to the wider pool of resistance”.

The five-year strategy advocates a “One Health” approach spanning human and animal medicine, as well as agriculture, but the Soil Association has attacked a “lack of specific recommendations for reducing antimicrobial use in farming”.

Soil Association policy adviser Richard Young said the overall approach was “weak and ineffectual”, and pointed to legislative moves by other European countries to cut antimicrobial use, such as a French government action plan to reduce antibiotics in agriculture by 25% over five years.

This assertion was not supported by industry bodies, including DEFRA, the NFU and RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture), who released a joint statement which said: “There are already clear guidelines in place for vets and farmers, and we will continue to promote and reinforce these key messages – and to provide vets, farmers, and pet owners with the information and tools they need to make the right decisions.”

The British Poultry Council’s agricultural policy manager, Máire Burnett, said the strategy had recognised concerted efforts had been made by the poultry industry, pointing to the voluntary ban on certain antibiotics considered critically important in one-day-old chicks for human health as a “prime example of responsible prescribing in the veterinary sector”.

“Alongside RUMA, we look forward to working with the chief medical officer and the chief veterinary officer and play an active role in the strategy.”

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