The farming industry have been praised for their commitment to tackle antimicrobial resistance following a 10 per cent drop in sales.
Sales of antibiotics for use in animals have hit a four-year low, with sales in food-producing animals dropping 10 per cent in the last year.
The reduction in use of farm antibiotics, particularly in pigs and poultry, has put the UK on track to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and achieve its target of 50mg per kilogram by 2018.
The latest Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD) report highlighted the positive news amid a barrage of industry criticism as part of World Antibiotic Awareness Week, including a letter from 15 of the country’s top doctors calling for a ban on the ‘routine misuse’ of antibiotics in UK farming.
The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance secretary general John FitzGerald said the reduction was ‘very encouraging’, highlighting the fact the farming industry had risen to the challenge of AMR.
He said: “We are delighted to see the hard work that has been taking place in the farming industry over the past couple of years is already paying off.
“This is a complex challenge and it is a fine balance to reduce and refine use of antibiotics without compromising animal welfare.”
The VMD report highlighted a fall in sales of some critically important antibiotics (CIAs), indicating a three per cent drop in fluoroquinolones, and an 11 per cent decrease in third generation cephalosporins.
Defra said AMR required an ‘international effort’ and the UK was taking the lead.
It came as the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics launched a scathing attack on the farming industry, suggesting the continued use of antibiotics in livestock was ‘undermining’ the efficiency of available antibiotics.
The alliance’s lobbyist Emma Rose said: “Failure to act on farm antibiotics is no longer an option.”
Use of antibiotics for non-medicinal purposes, such as in animal feed, has been banned in the EU since 2006.
RUMA hit back at what it described as ‘orchestrated rhetoric, supported by scant facts’ adding animal health and welfare should not be ‘jeopardised’ by ‘poor research and avoiding responsibility’.
Mr FitzGerald said despite AMR reductions, populations of resistant bacteria monitored by the VMD appeared ‘relatively static’, with the increase in pig samples testing positive for the ESBL E. coli bacteria ‘actually due to a change in testing methodology’.
Parallel testing using previous methods showed little change from two years ago.
“This means we are not seeing any increased risk to humans from animal transmission through food,” he added.