The National Pig Association (NPA) is launching a new programme designed to encourage pig producers to reduce antibiotic usage on farms.
In a bid to ensure and demonstrate responsible use of antibiotics in pigs, NPA is introducing the Pig Industry Antibiotic Stewardship Programme.
It is working with Pig Veterinary Society, industry levy body AHDB Pork, and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to progress the initiative.
The association’s antibiotic stewardship programme comes against a backdrop of mounting pressure on the livestock industry to cut back on antibiotic use because of concerns over growing resistance to drugs used in humans and animals.
Recently, it emerged a group of a group of powerful City investors had written to major food companies, including McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, Burger King and JD Wetherspoon, calling on them to cut antibiotic usage in their supply chains.
There will be six strands to the programme, which will look to help farmers ’achieve minimum use of antibiotics, consistent with responsible human and food-animal medicine’.
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies“We recognise and share society’s concerns about the level of antibiotic use in human and livestock medicine.
“In particular we acknowledge the risk, albeit small, of antibiotic resistance developing in bacteria in pigs and this resistance spreading to humans.”
NPA senior policy adviser Dr Georgina Crayford said: “Although antibiotic resistance in humans is largely caused by over-use and misuse of antibiotics in human medicine, the British pig industry has a duty to ensure it does not contribute to the problem.
She said overall sales of antibiotics for use in livestock in the UK sit mid-range compared to other European Union countries.
"We acknowledge the current perception that antibiotic use in our pig industry may be higher than in some other countries, but we don’t have any data to demonstrate what our actual on-farm usage is, hence the need for action," she added.
The programme’s ’most important goal’, collection of both quantitative and qualitative data on current use of antibiotics in British pig husbandry, will be achieved through the industry’s newly-introduced online medicines book, created by AHDB Pork working with VMD.
When the electronic medicines book has been sufficiently populated, producers will be able to benchmark their use of antibiotics with anonymised data from other farms of the same type, and to work with their vets to drive down overall use.
The NPA said pig sector had already taken additional key actions to guard against resistance in critically important human medicines.