9 July 1999

EUs antibiotic ruling remains

ATTEMPTS by two chemical manufacturers to get the EU ban on antibiotics in animal feed suspended have been thrown out by the European court in Luxembourg.

US-based Alpharma and Belgium registered Pfizer, which make bacitracin zinc and virginiamycin, had challenged last years decision by farm ministers to remove their products from the market amid fears they could contribute to human resistance to antibiotics.

In a key ruling last week, the president of the Court of First Instance said this risk could not be ruled out. "The protection of public health must take precedence over economic considerations," he said.

And since the ban was not causing significant financial hardship to the companies affected, which were still able to export their products outside the EU, there was no case for suspending it.

The president also noted that the regulations, which took full effect last week, would be subject to review before the end of next year, in the light of ongoing research. This is likely to be a key consideration when the court addresses a parallel legal challenge by Alpharma and Pfizer, seeking to have the antibiotics ban annulled, rather than just suspended. &#42