NPA chief exec puts O’Neill straight on antibiotic claims

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies challenged Lord Jim O’Neill after he made some ill-founded claims about antibiotic usage in the pig sector at a Global Superbugs event.

Lord O’Neill, author of a hugely influential Government-commissioned report in 2016 setting out why action is needed on a global scale to combat antimicrobial resistance, said he had been told that the NPA was discouraging the pig industry to reduce its antibiotic use. He suggested the industry, led by the NPA, did not believe using antibiotics in livestock was contributing to antimicrobial resistance.

He described the person who supplied the information as one of the few people trying to improve the use of antibiotics in food production, according to a report by the Veterinary Record (subscription required for full article).

When she got the opportunity, Dr Davies responded from the audience, highlighting the progress being made to reduce antibiotic use in the pig sector, which has been heavily promoted by the NPA.

She referred to the latest figures showing overall antibiotic use in pigs fell by 34% between 2015 and 2016, with use of the critically important antibiotics (CIAs) down by 73%. A further significant reduction is expected to be recorded for 2017.

Dr Davies told Lord O’Neill he had an ‘outdated view’ if he believed the industry did not acknowledge agriculture’s contribution to AMR. “That’s just not true,” she said. “We’ve worked very, very hard in the last few years to secure behaviour change within the pig sector and the results are starting to show.”

“We know we are behind the curve. We know we have got a lot of work to do, but we are determined to make that happen and we are determined to see that continue.”

The pig industry is now working collectively to meet the ambitious target of cutting usage to 99mg/kg PCU by 2020, a 62% reduction.

Dr Davies said the new targets would challenge the industry and that it would not stop there. She invited Lord O’Neill to meet the NPA and see for himself how the industry is tackling the challenge.

Stewardship Programme 

Afterwards, she said: “It was frustrating to hear Lord O’Neill make these comments without having spoken to us or having done his research, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to put him straight.

“The reality is that all parts of the industry are working together to address this challenge and we have been at the forefront of that with our Antibiotic Stewardship Programme, which sets out the principles for reducing antibiotic usage without compromising pig health and welfare.

“Yes, there is still some way to go, but this industry is truly committed to meeting the challenge – as is the NPA.”


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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.