October 8, 2003



EU Ban on Antibiotic May Be Bad for Animal Health


The proposed European Union ban on antibiotic growth aroused rebukes by expert critics, saying that it may be bad for animal health with little benefit for human health.


Authors of a review of the consequences say that the theoretical and political benefit of the widespread ban scheduled for January 1st 2006 needs to be more thoroughly accessed against the increasingly apparent adverse consequences.


Their review is published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotheraphy and follows a meeting sponsored by Elanco Animal Health.


Commenting on earlier bans on specific antibiotic growth promoters it notes that withdrawal is associated with deterioration in animal health, including clostridial necrotic enteritis in broilers.


A directly attributable effect is the increase in usage of therapeutic antibiotics in food animals, which are of direct importance in human medicine.


Effects on humans are specified from the ban in Sweden in 1986 of all food animal growth promoting antibiotics and the EU bans on avoparcin in 1997 and bacitracin, spiramycin, tylosin and virginiamycin in 1999.


The experts conclude that the intent of the ban was to protect human health, but it seems that the results are not prominent. Among the five co-authors from the UK, Denmark and Spain is well known poultry vet Paul McMullin of Poultry Health Services, Thirsk.




He stressed that this is an independent technical assessment, balanced by 2 human and 3 veterinary microbiology experts.


Whether it will over-rule politics is another matter, but at least they have been told, he said. 


The European Parliament has already endorsed the ban, but evidence is building up from the poultry industry that it could bring more losses than gains; most importantly it might result in poorer animal welfare.


There will be pressure for it to be delayed, not only on welfare grounds but also on the competitiveness of the EU industry that would be reduced relative to third countries where the products are still used.




It was reported a year ago that Assured Chicken Production (ACP) standards had been amended to allow the use of antibiotic growth enhancers, when recommended by the responsible veterinarian on welfare grounds.


Despite the best intentions the removal of these feed additives for a period had not worked for all members of the scheme and the amendment has again been renewed after a year's trial.


Paul McMullin has observed that a problem with growing broilers without antibiotics is patchy, some can do without it, others only with some crops and reasons are not clear. Hence, more time is required to resolve these issues.

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