NOAH technical executive Donal Murphy said policy suggestions made in the Government’s review of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could lead to unintended consequences of ‘downsides’ for both animal health and welfare and public health.
The review, chaired by Lord O’Neill, suggested an agreed level per kilogram of livestock and highlighted Danish production, where about 50mg is antibiotic is used per kilogram of meat.
“We object to arbitrary targets,” said Mr Murphy.
“We don’t use a lot more than Denmark. In the UK it is about 58mg/kg.
“The suggestion to reduce levels to the Danish level is not useful because it fails to recognise that the conditions outside Denmark are very different.”
Mr Murphy, who was speaking to journalists at the Farmers Club in London last week, said NOAH was concerned a reduction target would encourage vets and farmers to opt for the newer, most potent antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones, to get a more immediate response, thereby driving resistance.
In addition, there could be a temptation to cut usage times short which could also increase resistance.
He said targets should focus on reduction of the development and dissemination of AMR as the problem was ‘not use per se’.
“We would rather they concentrate on responsible use,” added Mr Murphy.
“There is a proposal for prophylactic use to be banned where antibiotics are administered via medicated feed. We are hopeful this will still remain possible.”
He added that where animals in a group were sick and they were in contact with other healthy animals, the whole group should be treated (metaphylactic use).
NOAH chief executive officer Dawn Howard said confusion and a lack of certainty around the proposals had prompted the spread of ‘myth and misunderstanding’ throughout the industry.
“The reality is that no class of antibiotic has been banned for use, nor do we know of any plans to do so,” she said.
"The UK has some of the strictest regulations on antibiotic use in the world, as well as a deep-rooted culture of responsible use. For example, the use of antibiotics as growth promoters was stopped right across the EU in 2006.”
She added NOAH supported the need for improved data on antibiotic usage to be available for the authorities to allow better analysis of which antibiotics were being used, where and in what species.
The European veterinary medicines regulations are currently under review.
Proposals for new Veterinary Medicinal Products and Medicated Feed regulations were published by the European Commission in September 2014.
NOAH understands new laws will take effect across all Member States in late 2018 or early 2019, although the exact timeline remains unclear and may alter slightly.