UK Government Sets Targets to Cut Antibiotic Use in Farming

UK - The UK's government has pledged to continue the fight against antimicrobial resistance to drugs, by working together with other countries to create a global strategy to tackle the problem and investing in research to find new antibiotic substances.
calendar icon 19 September 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

The government said it would uphold the recommendations of the review into the problem by Lord Jim O'Neill, released in May 2016.

Use of antibiotics in agriculture is often blamed for the development of resistance, and the government's response to Lord O'Neill's report said targets would be set for reduction in antibiotics use across animal agriculture, building on the success of the poultry industry, which reduced antibiotics use by 44 per cent between 2012 and 2015.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has committed to a reduction in antibiotic use in livestock and fish farmed for food to a multispecies average of 50mg/kg by 2018 (down from the most recent 2014 figure of 62mg/kg). Sector-specific targets will also be set by 2017.

The government's stance was broadly welcomed by groups involved with agriculture and its use of antibiotics. The British Veterinary Association said that while it opposed arbitrary target-setting as it could impact on vets' ability to treat animals where necessary, it accepts the use of evidence-based targets as a means to reduce resistance. The BVA added it would be working with the government to help set the targets.

Meanwhile, John FitzGerald, secretary general of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance, commented: “The UK farming industry is being asked to play its part, in reducing antibiotic use by around 19 per cent by 2018 based on sales recorded by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate in 2014.

"This will be testing, but we are confident and determined that the industry can rise to the challenge."

The government's commitment came ahead of a special UN meeting on antimicrobial resistance, due to begin on Wednesday.

Further Reading

You can view the government's full response to Lord Jim O'Neill's report by clicking here.

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