Unjust zinc oxide ban could hamper our antibiotic aims

I’m not usually a sore loser (although my husband will dispute that when it comes to any kind of competitive game) but I do get really annoyed by injustice.

That is exactly how I felt when the news broke that, despite a gargantuan effort by many to convince the Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use that their proposed ban on products containing Zinc Oxide (ZnO) was completely unjustified, they just went ahead and banned it anyway.

What is most galling is that they said there was no evidence that ZnO even worked.

Now, I think we all realised that it would probably be banned at some point because of the potential link with antimicrobial resistance, but to use environmental pollution as a reason, citing a couple of countries’ examples and tarring the rest of the EU as the same is just wrong.

Not only does the UK have zinc deficient soils, we are also about to set some pretty challenging antibiotic targets and this won’t help one bit!

You were all doing so well, too. I just hope that the Commission – which makes the final decision (and which has already been consulting on the phase-out period) – listens to reason and accepts the 10-year plan that we have suggested. At least then we might be able to get some sensible alternatives in place. I heard the Dutch were dusting sows teats with Zinc Oxide, a genius idea.

We may well have made great leaps forward in understanding our antibiotic usage by getting data onto eMB, but now we need to decide, once we have enough data, what a sensible reduction target might look like.

We are using 2015 as a baseline and we know from sales data that usage dropped quite considerably in 2016. What we don’t know is how low do we go?

Targets will have to be set by the summer and we all know how important it will be to get a sensible, achievable target that is also acceptable to government. This is where you come in. There is no better source of information than pig producers themselves, so I am asking you to please get involved and have your say. We will be talking it through at the NPA regional meetings, so this is your chance!

We are still battling away on bovine TB (bTB) and I took a group of eminent vets in with me to meet with Defra’s TB policy team to try and agree a way forward. Sadly the team appears to have acquired a particularly prickly character, who was very defensive throughout the meeting and wouldn’t even look at me half the time.

I fear we will struggle to get anywhere while the view pervades that bTB in pigs is a much worse problem than we think because we aren’t looking hard enough for it.

On another, bittersweet note, Lizzie has now started her maternity leave and left behind a gaping hole – we will miss her. We have however managed to recruit a wonderful new policy adviser – and it’s a man.

Now, don’t choke on your tea… it is allowed!

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About The Author

Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: www.npa-uk.org.uk