November 22, 2016


Antibiotic use in animals drop 9% to 4-year low in UK



Sales of antibiotics for use in animals in the UK are at a four-year low, putting the UK on track to meet ambitious targets to tackle antibiotic resistance, according to a report released Thursday, Nov. 17, by the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, or Defra.


A growing threat to human health, antibiotic resistance may cause 10 million deaths per year and cost the global economy $100 trillion by 2050 if no action is taken, experts say.


In September, the UK government announced plans to tackle it, including a commitment to significantly reduce antibiotic use in animals.


The report showed that overall sales of antibiotics in terms of weight dropped by 9% from 2014 to 2015, while sales for use in food-producing animals dropped 10% from 62 milligrammes per kilogramme (mg/kg) to 56mg/kg. This continues a 10-year downward trend and puts the UK on track to reach its 50mg/kg target by 2018, says Defra.

Aside from the overall reduction, the report showed a drop in sales of the highest-priority antibiotics that are critically important for humans. Sales of these made up just over 1% of all antibiotics sold for use in animals in 2015.
"Antibiotic resistance is the biggest threat to modern medicine and we must act now to help keep antibiotics effective for future generations. This report shows the hard work of our vets and farmers is already making a real impact", Defra Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity Lord Gardiner said in welcoming the report's findings.


'Setting an excellent example'


"Our farmers and vets are setting an excellent example for others around the world to follow, upholding the UK's position at the forefront of international efforts to tackle AMR (antimicrobial resistance)", he added.


Defra said the meat poultry industry almost halved its use of critically important antibiotics from 2012 to 2015 by improving training, stewardship, stockmanship and disease control. The UK pig industry has launched a successful online system to record, benchmark and control antibiotic use, which already contains data for millions of pigs.


In September 193 countries endorsed a declaration agreeing to combat AMR at the 71st UN General Assembly, only the fourth ever UN Declaration on a health issue.


"Antimicrobial resistance threatens the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and requires a global response," Peter Thomson, the president of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, who convened the high-level meeting, said then.


Use of antibiotics for non-medicinal purposes, such as in animal feed, has been banned in the EU since 2006. A number of additional measures ensure food does not contain antibiotics when it reaches the table.


Those using antibiotics in livestock for medicinal purposes must observe a safe withdrawal period before an animal can go to slaughter or its products can be sold to consumers, which is set by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and European Medicines Agency. Stringent rules are also in place for meat and dairy products imported into the EU.

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