Calls for the more ‘prudent use’ of antibiotics on farms

A scientific report published today by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) highlights the serious impact posed by the potential transmission of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the food chain.

Produced by the FSAI’s Scientific Committee, the report recommends a series of control strategies along the food chain to reduce the risk of transmission of AMR, as part of an urgent cross-sectoral response across all areas – veterinary, human, and environmental.

A key recommendation of the report is to achieve a reduction in the demand for antimicrobial use on farms through improved measures to prevent infection.

“When antimicrobial treatment is required, it should be done prudently,” it says.

It says in veterinary medicine, ‘prudent use’ means that the correct medicine is used to treat the particular disease that has been accurately diagnosed, and that the medicine is used at the correct dose rate and correct duration in line with veterinary consultation.

The report recommends that prudent use of antibiotics should be supported by improving training and therapeutic guidelines; introducing equivalent regulatory control of all antimicrobial formulations; developing targets and incentives for each animal sector to drive more prudent use and; by developing systems that allow more targeted delivery of antimicrobial agents to the animals that actually need to receive them.

In addition, the report recommends that systems to improve surveillance of antimicrobial use in animals and of AMR along the food chain should be further developed and findings published annually as an integrated human and food chain report.

Dr. Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI states AMR must be viewed as a shared challenge requiring a vigorous response by stakeholders at each stage in the food chain.

“Continuing emphasis on good agricultural practice, good hygiene practice and robust food safety management systems are fundamental, as these are key safeguards against transfer of bacteria including antimicrobial-resistant bacteria through the food chain.

“This is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently as part of a cross-sector approach, otherwise levels of AMR will continue to rise and it will become increasingly difficult and expensive to control and treat infections in medical care and more difficult to maintain animal health and welfare.”

The FSAI says the rise in AMR is now recognised worldwide as one of the greatest potential threats to human and animal health, with possible serious consequences for public health, animal welfare and the agri-food sectors.

For example, the European Centre for Disease Control estimates that antimicrobial-resistant bacteria are responsible for 25,000 deaths in the EU per year, with associated health care costs and productivity losses of €1.5 billion.