4 December 1998

Four antibiotics seem set to be banned soon

FOUR key antibiotics, used as growth promoters in pig and poultry rations, are now almost certain to be banned next year.

A vote by the EUs Standing Committee for Animal Nutrition on Wed (Dec 2) found 10 member states in favour of a commission proposal to ban the four products – virginiamycin, tylosin, zinc bacitracin and spiramycin – which account for about 80% of the market in digestive feed enhancers.

With Spain, Portugal and Belgium voting against, and France and Italy abstaining, there was not enough support to secure the ban immediately. Instead it will go to EU farm ministers at their meeting on Dec 14/15, where a simple majority of eight member states in favour will be enough.

Drug companies will then have a six-month transition period in which to clear the market.

Initial reaction from the manufacturers was one of shock, particularly at the news the UK voted in favour of the ban. "The government is well aware of the scientific research that is ongoing – including the commissions antibiotic resistance survey and the UKs own investigation into the microbiological safety of food.

It has always said it will wait for the outcome of those programmes before deciding," said a spokeswoman for the National Office of Animal Health.