ANALYSIS - A framework for replacement, reduction and refinement needs to be established for the responsible use of antimicrobials along the supply chain.
The measures that should be implemented by vets, farmers, producers, retailers and the pharmaceutical industry need to be communicated to consumers.
This is one of the main findings put forward by a top level roundtable, Antimicrobials – Who Needs Them?, chaired by the Food Animal Initiative together with the pharmaceutical company Ceva.
The roundtable agreed a path establishing new and standardised measures for antibiotic use that can be implemented at producer level and that can also make changes in the way antibiotics are used at both national and regional level.
The roundtable said that in establishing this path for an effective reduction in use of antibiotics animal health and welfare standards together with productivity have to be maintained.
The group also called for a common understanding and definition of the term 'Critically Important Antimicrobials' (CIA) and which antibiotics that are used in food producing animals can be described as critically important.
The roundtable drew together vets, food scientists, farmers and representatives of the food and animal health industries to discuss concerns over the use of antibiotics and the growing problems that are being encountered regarding antibiotic resistance and human health.
In order to effect change the roundtable said that legislative reform, behavioural change and system change had to take place.
The group said that while the European Commission is expected to introduce legislation of the use of 'Critically Important Antimicrobials' within the next two years it is not clear what the legislation will say or how it will be implemented.
The roundtable also recognised that there is variation in attitudes of farmers and vets to the use of antibiotics but bad practice in their use is often the result of a lack of knowledge or understanding about them.
By changing existing behaviour and through training and standard practices, the situation could be improved.
The roundtable said that vets must ultimately be responsible for prescribing antibiotics and vets too need training and support to ensure this is carried out responsibly.
In its report, the roundtable expressed concern over the way retailers discussed antibiotics, because the language used could scare consumers.
The report also calls for a new way of measuring the use and dosage of antibiotics, bringing the measurement for animals closer to the definition of a defined daily dose (DDD) that is used for humans.
The roundtable concluded that the most important way forward to stimulate responsible use of antibiotics in livestock production, was to adapt measures introduced in the 1950’s to replace, reduce and refine their use.
The measures were brought in 60 years ago to address concerns about the responsible use of animals for experimental scientific research, but the roundtable said that the principles are equally applicable to the use of antimicrobials.
To read the report on the outcomes and findings of the roundtable, click here