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Good news on antibiotic sale reductions - but more needs to be done

The latest VARSS report said total sales had reached a low of 37 mg/kg between 2016 and 2017, 40 per cent lower than in 2013. 

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Good news on antibiotic sale reductions but more needs to be done

A fall of 18 per cent in total sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals has been welcomed alongside prompts to better engage with data collection.

 

The figures were published on Wednesday (October 24) in the latest Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance Sales and Surveillance (VARSS) report, showing total sales had reached a low of 37 mg/kg between 2016 and 2017.

 

It was a 40 per cent reduction since Defra launched its antimicrobial resistance strategy in 2013.

 

Sales of the highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs) also dropped a further 29 per cent from already very low levels in 2016, to 0.8 per cent of total sales in 2017.


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But chairman of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance Gywn Jones said while pig and poultry had comprehensive usage figures covering the majority of its producers, there was a greater need for national data in dairy and beef.

 

He said data was harder to capture because of their more diverse supply chains, the large number of producers involved and a greater prevalence of mixed enterprise operations.

 

Representative

“This means we cannot be sure of how representative these figures are,” Mr Jones said.

 

“For example, antibiotic usage figures in the 2017 VARSS report indicate that dairy cows fell from 26mg/kg in 2016 to 17mg/kg in 2017.

“This is based on one large dataset of veterinary practice prescriptions – the best we currently have – but we must be mindful that because this database covers 31 per cent of dairy cows, it may not be typical of the whole dairy sector.”

 

The same also applied for beef cattle where the dataset in the report suggested antibiotic use was at 19mg/kg – but it was previously considered to be lower.

 

And in the sheep sector, while it is working on tackling usage ‘hotspots’, it ‘currently lacks the data to quantify progress’, Mr Davies added.

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