23 April 1998
Vets and farmers deny over-use of antibiotics
By FWi staff
FARMER leaders and veterinary officers have denied over-using antibiotics in agriculture, despite the release of a damning Government report.
Misuse of antibiotics in intensive farming and over-prescribing by doctors are major threats to public health and could undo the miracle of 20th century medicine, according to a House of Lords science and technology committee report released yesterday.
The report claims that there is a dire prospect of returning to the pre-antibiotic era unless something is done. It says “superbugs” known as MRSAs have become resistant because similar antibiotics have been used for 20 years on farms to promote the growth of intensively reared chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep and cows.
The report calls for:
- Over-prescribing doctors to be better educated
- Government to reconsider budget cuts facing the Public Health Laboratory
- An improved surveillance system for antibiotic resistance
- Medical research funders to make antibiotic resistance a priority
The select committee said it did not think there should be a total ban on growth promoters for animals, but called for the phasing-out of some.
Brian Jennings, National Farmers Union chairman of the animal health and welfare committee, said he was confident that farmers were keeping veterinary records on-farm, which has been the law since 1988.
“With traceability and farm assurance now firmly in place, farmers can be asked to present these records at any time to an inspector or vet,” he said.
Bob Stevenson, past president of the British Veterinary Association, questioned the misuse of antibiotics on-farm because of the cost of them.
He said farmers were more competent than ever before in regard to keeping records of veterinary medicines following the emergence of BSE. Any trace of residues would mean a visit by the State Veterinary Service, and if the farmers veterinary medicine book was not up to date, it could lead to prosecution, he added.
The Veterinary Medicine Directorate showed that 99.9% of the 36,000 food samples between January to December contained no traces of detectable residues.
Richard Young, from the Soil Association, has published a report calling for the introduction of stringent new controls in the routine use of antibiotics in livestock production. He called on Government to spend more money on controlling antibiotic resistance as opposed to spending money on controlling residues.