EU to curb use of feed antibiotics

01 June 1999

EU to curb use of feed antibiotics

By Johann Tasker

EUROPEAN Union scientists are expected to make significant new proposals aimed at restricting the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed.

The European Union (EU) Scientific Steering Committee, which met last Friday (28 May), is believed to have approved a report from a Multi-disciplinary Working Group set up by DG24, the EU directorate for consumer affairs.

The group was set up to examine concerns that avilamycin, bambermycin, monensin sodium and salinamycin may make humans resistant to medicinal antibiotics.

The groups report, which is expected to be published later today (Tuesday), focuses on antibiotic resistance in human and veterinary medicines.

It is also expected to expose the widespread use of antibiotics as crop pesticides in some countries from which the UK imports produce.

A report in todays Guardiansay that the scientific steering committee of scientists from 15 member states unanimously agreed on the findings of the report.

It is understood they now call for urgent action amid fears that the use of antibiotics is increasing drug resistance and making diseases harder to fight.

Phasing out the use of antibiotics in animal feed would provoke a clash with the pharmaceuticals industry as well as threaten a renewed trade war with the USA.

Drugs companies are already threatening legal action over a proposed EU ban due to come into force next month on four antibiotics used as growth promoters.

European agriculture ministers agreed last December to ban the use of virginiamycin, tylosin phosphate, spiramycin and zinc bacitracin.

The ban came into effect on 1 January, but member states were given until the end of this month to use up old stocks and make changes in production systems.

Campaigners against antibiotics in animal feed now want that ban extended to cover avilamycin, one of the antibiotics expected to be criticised in todays report.

The Soil Association claims that avilamycin-resistant bacteria have already been found in livestock products.

And it says the same bacteria are cross resistant to Ziracin, a medicinal product being developed for the treatment of otherwise incurable superbugs in hospitals.

“It is no good waiting until Ziracin is introduced into hospitals,” said Richard Young, campaign co-ordinator for the Soil Association.

“Avilamycin should be banned now otherwise it will compromise the effectiveness of Ziracin even before it comes into use.”

Elanco, which manufactures avilamycin, pledged to defend the antibiotic, claiming it is one of the most effective growth promoters left on the market.

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