Drive to cut antibiotics praised by senior health official

The livestock sector has won praise from a senior human health official after figures showed dramatic cuts in antibiotics use and almost total compliance with EU medicine laws.

During an AHDB Pork event last week, government chief medical officer Sally Davies said she was proud of the UK livestock sector for the work it had done to cut antibiotics use.

See also: Antibiotics use halved in the pig industry over two years

“You have halved antibiotics use in two years – we are aiming by 2020 to hit 99mg/population correction unit [PCU] and at 131mg/PCU we are well on the way,” said Dame Sally.

She added the use of medicines vital for human health, known as critically important antibiotics, had virtually ceased altogether and this had been achieved voluntarily.

Welcomed reduction

Dame Sally: “I can’t thank you enough. We are making progress and I am proud of that.”

She also told the meeting, held in conjunction with the National Pig Association and its magazine Pig World, that human medicine was lagging behind in its approach to antibiotics use.

“Let me be quite clear – the problem is biggest in human use and misuse of antibiotics.

“I recognise that and I am not into blaming our animal sector,” she said. 

But she stressed the progress must continue and more work needed to be done before there could be any let up in efforts.

“More than 70% of antibiotics used in the world are used by the farming community and the vast majority – over 70% of that – is used for growth promotion, rather than treating sick animals,” she said.

European Food Safety Authority

Meanwhile annual monitoring carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has shown almost negligible use of veterinary substances and other contaminants in samples from more than 710,000 live animals and carcasses.

The EFSA is looking for substances such as antibacterials, growth steroids and other contaminants which include mycotoxins from fungi in feed.

The samples revealed 99.7% were clear of any contamination.

Importantly for antibacterial presence almost 99.9% of the samples taken, complied with EU Directives on residue levels.