Farmers and farm vets have been warned a simple reduction in antibiotic use is not enough to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
The clamp-down came in the second joint report by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which confirmed the use of fluoroquinolones in food-producing animals was a major contributor to resistance of the drug in humans.
It said measures should target all classes of antibiotics to reduce the risk of ‘co-selection’, where use of one type of antibiotic produces resistance to another.
Vytenis Andruikaitis, European commissioner for health and food safety, said: “To contain antibiotic resistance we need to fight on three fronts at the same time: human, animal and the environment.”
While the report confirmed a complicated and often confusing picture between antibiotic usage and resistance, it came as a positive step for the industry which was championed on its fight against AMR when ranked one of the lowest users of antibiotics compared to other EU countries.
On an EU scale, antibiotic use from a human perspective was about average, whereas use in farm animals was well below 40 per cent.
The report also confirmed the UK as a very low user of critically important antibiotics (CIAs), including colistin.
The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) said the farming community must take a strategic approach in changing its use of antibiotics but was positive the report had backed up recent moves in the industry.
RUMA secretary general John FitzGerald expected the situation to change but was pleased the industry was on the right tracks.
“The UK’s most recent Veterinary Antimicrobials Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) report on 2015 sales data saw a 10 per cent drop in antibiotics sales into food-producing animals compared with the previous year,” he said.
“This, alongside significant reported reductions in usage in the poultry and pig sectors, will have changed the picture again.
“There has been a tendency for critics to promote alternative farming systems or demand blanket implementation of rules in other countries, when what we actually need is to reduce use in a sustainable way that safeguards animal welfare.”