Antibiotic policies under review after Lords report

8 May 1998

Antibiotic policies under review after Lords report

By Emma Penny

RETAILERS and assurance schemes are reconsidering their policies on antibiotic use after the recent Lords select committee report on antibiotics an resistance.

Tesco is formulating a policy for medicinal use for all animal products supplied to its stores.

The firms agricultural manager, Chris Challinor, says it is designing guidelines for antibiotic use in animals, and is encouraging manufacturers to look for alternatives.

"Antibiotics which have any relationship with human medicine must go; we cannot have anything slipping through the net. Producers must understand that food safety is an increasing issue, and we have to provide what our consumers want."

Medicine use in all classes of livestock will come under scrutiny, including pigs, lamb, beef, dairy cattle, poultry and venison. "We want to encourage proper biosecurity and hygiene on-farm, looking at cause rather than prevention."

But he says Tesco recognises that antibiotics cannot be removed over-night. "It would be easy to implement consumer needs, but we must look at the viability of businesses."

Welfare is another consideration, and in his role as pig specialist Mr Challinor has visited Danish units which have stopped using antibiotics. "I feel this is compromising welfare in piglets. Here, we would be likely to allow in-feed antibiotic use until pigs reach 35kg."

Pig producers supplying Tesco will also have to undergo four visits a year from their vet, as well as sticking to an approved medicine list. "We will also be increasing carcass and finished product testing. Where unacceptable levels of antibiotics are found in carcasses we will destroy that consignment, then test the next load more thoroughly. If that second load fails to meet standards it will be destroyed and the producer will not be paid."

Tesco producer club manager, Chris Ling, says that removing antibiotic growth promoters from beef rations at a snap is not an option. "We do want to reduce antibiotic use on-farm over time, and intend to work with producers, manufacturers and vet bodies to do this. We will be looking at the mode of action of products such as Romensin and considering whether they have an effect on antibiotic resistance before formulating a response."

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