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Australian poultry industry marks World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week runs from 18-24 November and presents a key opportunity for consumers to consider their role in helping to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.

18 November 2020, at 7:07am

The Australian chicken meat industry supports the World Health Organisation (WHO) in calling Australians to handle antimicrobials with care, in line with the theme of this year’s global awareness week.

Australian Chicken Meat Federation Executive Director Dr Vivien Kite says, “The Australian chicken meat industry has been a global leader in helping to prevent antibiotic resistance through the adoption of responsible use practices and policies since the 1980s. The industry acknowledges that it has a role to play to prevent the development of antibiotic resistance, while at the same time has a responsibility to protect and maintain the health and welfare of the chickens in its care, and we are proud of the work that has been done to date, and that is ongoing.”

Some of this work includes

  • The creation and adoption of world leading formal antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) programmes by all major chicken meat companies
  • The adoption across industry of the principle that, if antibiotics are to be used at all, they must only be used for therapeutic purposes (to treat, control or prevent disease), and certainly not for growth promotion. Indeed, this has been industry’s position as far back as 2007.
  • Adoption of a policy that no antibiotics that have been determined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be critically important in human medicine are to be used routinely in chicken production
  • Focusing on prevention rather than treatment – using vaccination, farm hygiene and biosecurity to keep Australian chicken flocks healthy. The industry has led the world in terms of developing and implementing vaccines as alternatives to antibiotics.
  • Development of appropriate use guidelines for antibiotics in a food-animal industry. Australian poultry veterinarians were the first in Australia (and amongst the first in the world) to develop and implement these.

Over the past year, AgriFutures Australia supported a project to independently verify the existence and maturity of the AMS programmes developed and maintained by the six companies that produce 90 percent of Australian chicken meat. The report on this project is publicly available. The results verify that the AMS principles adopted by the Australian chicken meat industry have been successful in maintaining the low-resistance status of key bacterial species isolated from Australian meat chickens.

Furthermore, and in collaboration with the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ Animal Biosecurity and Response Reform Programme, the industry participated in a national survey of antimicrobial resistance in Australian meat chickens. The results show the Australian chicken meat industry is in an enviable position globally with low and improved levels of AMR and, importantly, low levels of resistance to antimicrobials that are priorities for use in human health. This has been achieved due to the industry’s long-standing program of responsible use of antibiotics.

Dr Kite says, “Our collaboration with the Government, Australian scientists and other experts in this study on AMR and the commitment of our members to antimicrobial stewardship programmes will continue to place the Australian chicken meat industry as an international leader in the area of responsible antimicrobial use, while continuing to ensure that the health and welfare of our chickens is not compromised.