An antimicrobial resistance (AMR) ‘task force’ is to be set up to look at how meaningful targets can be developed to replace, reduce and refine antibiotic use in UK agriculture.
The move, initiated by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, follows the publication of today’s O’Neill review final report, which identifies the setting of 10-year targets for AMR reduction in agriculture as a key next step.
“We understand the report’s ambition to develop long-term targets,” said RUMA’s secretary general, John FitzGerald (pictured above). “The industry has long recognised the beneficial role targets can play, but is acutely aware that inappropriate targets can also be counterproductive and even lead to increased risk of resistance.
“We are delighted therefore to announce the setting up of this task force which will harness the expertise of specialists across different sectors and work proactively with the authorities to look at identifying effective, evidence-based goals that work for our UK livestock sectors and protect animal welfare.”
He also said that the UK focus was especially important as while there were important lessons to learn from other countries’ experiences in reducing antibiotic use, direct comparisons were never simple.
“It should be remembered that the Danish government invested heavily to allow its pig farmers to build new high-health premises,” said Mr FitzGerald, “reducing its antibiotic usage by nearly 60%. The Netherlands is now at approximately the same level of use as the UK and we must look at how we develop the right goals for our sectors.”
He also praised the work of the pig and poultry sector’s recognition of the importance of surveillance.
“Our UK poultry meat sector set up detailed surveillance of antibiotic use five years ago and through this has been able to replace, reduce and refine antibiotic use and pass on its learnings to other sectors,” he said.
“The pig sector, similarly, has also just launched an online medicine book and stewardship programme to improve on pig usage data already collected through the Red Tractor scheme, which has been in place since October 2014.”