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RUMA/VMD Conference on Responsible Use: Ideas into Action – 3 November 2015 Report of Proceedings and Key Outcomes

Summary of RUMA/VMD Conference on Responsible Use: Ideas into action

RUMA ConferenceAround 170 delegates and speakers attended the conference, held at Sainsbury’s auditorium in Holborn, London. This One Health conference considered the serious risks to human and animal health caused by antibiotic resistance and the importance, therefore, of using medicines responsibly. Speakers from the livestock, human health, media and education sectors spoke on:

  • What do we mean by Responsible Use?
  • What influences Responsible Use?
  • Measuring and Monitoring Medicine use
  • How do we communicate what we are doing?

A number of key points were made by the speakers and delegates in the discussion sessions built into the agenda. These included:

  • Acknowledgement that AMR is a very complex issue and it was important for all sectors to work together, with respect for each other, to reduce the development of resistance and maintain the efficacy of existing antimicrobials. The key driver for all this work was to reduce the AMR risk in human medicine.
  • There was a call for a clear definition of Responsible Use. RUMA’s definition, which is in all RUMA Guidelines, is for farms to be managed so that the risk of disease challenge and therefore the need to use a medicine is reduced. Animals should be treated properly when they become ill i.e. in accordance with vet diagnosis and label/vet instructions re medicine use. So medicines should be used “as little as possible and as much as necessary”.
  • One comment from the floor asked what is our endpoint – what does success look like and how will we know when we get there? This is an excellent question and one that we all need to consider. For veterinary use it could be being able to justify every use of antimicrobial in an animal in terms of both animal welfare and human health.
  • It was acknowledged that doctors face a dilemma of individual patient well-being versus the greater good when deciding to use an antibiotic. There can be risks of an infection developing and diagnosis is not black and white. There was a clear need for better diagnostic tools in both human and veterinary medicine.
  • Research had indicated that doctors and vets need to speak to patients/animal keepers about antibiotic expectations and not make assumptions that an antibiotic prescription was expected.
  • Should farmers be allowed to continue to treat animals without any qualifications? Should they be licensed to farm?
  • It was clear from the speakers that there is a great deal of work on antimicrobial stewardship being carried out across livestock sectors and more is planned. This was welcome but this work must not be done in silos and the livestock sectors must learn from each other and the work being done in human medicine.
  • Developing a business case and peer pressure were recognised as key drivers for change. It was recognised that the work on antibiotic usage data collection will enable farmers and their vets to consider and review the outcomes of their antibiotic use and its impact on productivity. Farmers and vets must work together to use these data to make decisions on future antimicrobial use.
  • A number of speakers raised the need for clear communication and there was concern that RUMA’s work with the media was poor and needed an overhaul. In particular, RUMA needs to be more open in admitting that issues exist and explaining how we plan to address them. One of the summarisers said you need courage to communicate properly!
  • A number of people said strong leadership is required and one asked who is leading? This might be considered disappointing for RUMA, who have tried to adopt a lead role in collaborating the livestock sector’s work on AMR. This has been highlighted by RUMA’s 5 Year AMR Strategy Action Plan which is driving and recording the livestock sector’s work to implement the Strategy. But in order to continue this lead other parties aligned to RUMA perhaps need to work more closely together for the common good so the positive messages about Responsible Use are synergistically magnified.

The presentations made by each of the speakers can be downloaded. The following is a synopsis of their talks plus points of note made during the presentations or discussions.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, FRS, FMedSci, Chief Medical Officer

Dame Sally opened the day by talking about the history of antibiotic use, and how this has led to the situation today where the bugs are once again ‘winning the war’. She touched on antibiotic use in the animal sector and the impact that this has on human health.

Dame Sally said it was important for us all to work together with respect. She acknowledged the work done in aquaculture in the UK and Norway to reduce antimicrobial use but said that antibiotic consumption in livestock is increasing around the world. Use of antibiotic growth promoters had been banned in the EU but how can we stop their use the in rest of world?

1 CMO RUMA slides – without speaking notes

Session 1 What do we mean by Responsible Use?

Meryl Ward, Chair AHDB-Pork

Meryl said that Responsible Use of Medicines is a key priority in the pig industry strategy to deliver safe and traceable pork. Responsible use starts with an active veterinary health plan based on preventive medicine and supported by targeted surveillance. She outlined the plans for a new electronic hub for benchmarking antibiotic use which will encourage action and revision of veterinary health plans. Many factors combine to improve health and welfare and reduce antibiotic usage of which environment and training are identified as critical for the pig industry. A responsible approach to voluntary regulation with robust policies, cross-industry commitment, a staged process and an open mind to advances in technology are already making significant inroads into health and welfare and reduction in antibiotic use.

Meryl said that the pig industry had to justify its high welfare credentials. The vet is the most important part of a team approach to develop a holistic approach to responsible use. On her own farm, Meryl said that her vet has become a key part of the management team with fortnightly visits for advice and he is paid as a consultant. This helps her to comply with Red Tractor standards which require quarterly vet visits to members’ farms i.e. for 95% of pig farms.

An important element of responsible use of medicines was an active veterinary health plan which farmers and vets should use to benchmark results, identify actions and adapt to keep it relevant.

Meryl did not believe that legislation should be needed to force reductions in antibiotic usage. Farmers and vets should be able to achieve this by working together using, for example, improved diagnostics, good biosecurity and post mortem and other data. On-farm training was required to provide the how and why for medicine use. Such training would be enhanced through better benchmarking tools to help famers compare to their peers and learn from each other. Training is the key for better knowledge transfer.

Meryl said the farm environment was also important. Pig housing improvements go a long way to help reduce disease risk but there are few manufacturers of pig housing and farmers need profit to invest. It would also help if farmers could offset the cost against tax.

2 Meryl Ward RUMA Conference Presentation

Dan Parker MRCVS, Veterinary Adviser, British Poultry Council

Dan outlined the development of the British Poultry Council (BPC) antibiotic stewardship group to develop and support the sector in responsible use of antibiotics in the meat sector. The group championed education of the sector as well as pioneering the collection of antibiotic usage data to allow members to benchmark their progress in responsible use. He said the stewardship programme included non-BPC members and individual companies had adopted their own stewardship policies. Further work is ongoing on replace, reduce and refine strategies within member companies:

  • Replace antibiotic use e.g. vaccines
  • Reduce antibiotic use
  • Refine – e.g. use external experts to review colistin use after it became critically important in humans.

The BPC was also co-operating with and funding research into critical areas such as ESBL and LA-MRSA.

The BPC had been collecting antibiotic usage figures for a number of years and shared these figures with the VMD for use in their annual reports 2015. The bottom quartile of farms i.e. those with the highest antibiotic use, are given an action plan from their vet to help them reduce their use.

Dan said the BPC support continued access to antibiotics used responsibly to protect health and welfare but did not support a ‘race to the bottom’ i.e. no antibiotic use in animals, which is unrealistic.

3 Daniel Parker – RUMA nov2015

Peter Edmondson MRCVS

Peter highlighted the changes in how medicines are currently used in dairy herds as they increase in size, the changing role of the dairy vet, current veterinary involvement in treatments, farmer challenges as they are the people who administer the majority of antibiotics and how this all fits in with responsible use of medicines.

He said that dairy farming involved individual animal treatment and the trend is for bigger herds, less farms and more foreign workers. Vets prescribe and supply but, like doctors, do not know how medicine is used. Peter commented that there are no training requirement to administer veterinary medicines which led to a discussion about training and qualifications for farmers to make them more professional. It was suggested that there was a need for vets to run training courses for farmers.

Peter said that vets are seeing fewer sick animals because farmers are better educated so there is less disease but also because farmers are concerned about vet costs and so use the vet as an emergency service only calling one out if there is a problem. Most antibiotics are given by dairy farmers are in udder treatments and there was a move to selective Dry Cow Therapy which could lead to a reduction in antibiotic use. Peter mentioned a paper by David Tissall of Bristol Vet School on using no 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins in dairy cattle.

In summary, Peter said there had been a significant increase in disease prevention and uptake in vaccine use but there were opportunities to reduce disease further. There were new initiatives to reduce antibiotic use and farmers and vets are aware of responsible use.

4 Peter Edmondson Responsible use of Antibiotics Dairy RUMA 3 Nov 2015

Professor Chris Butler, FRCGP

Chris Butler presented the development of theory-based behaviour change interventions aimed at enhancing the quality of antibiotic prescribing in general medical practice and described their evaluation in randomised trials. He said that 80% of human use of antibiotics in England was in Primary care and it was though that between 50 and80% of these antibiotics could be misuse. But microbiologists mustn’t take an over simplistic view. For doctors prescribing their priority is patient well being and not necessarily the general good. Research had indicated that many patients now expect not to have antibiotics.

So there needed to be a One Health acceptance of the need to change antibiotic use which recognised that change was both important and feasible. Prof Butler mentioned examples of the actions taken in primary care to reduce antibiotic use and which could transfer to the veterinary sector. These were:

  • better communications and better point of care testing which had led to up to a 75% reduction in antibiotic use
  • an interactive booklet for parents to help look after their children had led to a 20% reduction in antibiotic use
  • a Target Antibiotics toolkit on the Royal College of GPs website.

RUMA will consider how these examples could be applied to the veterinary sector.

5 Chris Butler RUMA conference 3 november 2015

Dr Fiona Lovatt, MRCVS

Dr Lovatt said that due to its extensive nature, the sheep industry has a reputation as one which uses minimal quantities of antimicrobials. However, there is no room for complacency and she considered the key areas of lamb production where ‘responsible use’ is important. In particular, she considered the development of anthelmintic resistance which has a high profile within the sheep industry and how this issue has been tackled by SCOPS a pan-industry initiative over the past 10 years.

Dr Lovatt said the small antibiotic use in sheep was mainly in routine treatment for neo-natal lambs, enzootic abortion or foot rot. She thought the short version of the RUMA Guideline on antimicrobials in sheep production was excellent but the long version needed updating and RUMA will consider this.

Dr Lovatt was concerned by the lack of vet involvement on sheep farms and their veterinary health plans. Unfortunately, farmers did not consider the sheep vet as a key part of sheep production. Most medicines are supplied by SQPs.

Anthelmintic resistance is a bigger problem than antibiotic resistance for sheep production. Recent research by HCC in Wales shows increasing numbers of farms with multiple resistance. This highlighted the importance the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group. SCOPS was a model example of industry self help involving all groups involved in sheep production to develop guidelines to help farmers reduce the risk of anthelmintic resistance by using them responsibly.

6 Fiona Lovatt RUMA Sheep

Dr John Webster, Technical Director, Scottish Salmon Producers

Dr Webster set the scene saying that, globally, fish produced for human consumption through aquaculture now exceeds the total wild catch. With both the human population and per capita consumption of fish increasing it is inevitable that aquaculture production will continue to grow as wild stocks decline and further management measures are introduced.

He said that there was very little antimicrobial use in aquaculture in the UK with only 1 tonne of antimicrobial active ingredient used for annual production of 179,000 tonnes of fish. Sea lice are the biggest problem and the industry was moving to non-medicinal interactions such as using wrasse and other small fish to eat the lice.

Dr Webster said that the industry had developed a Code of Good Practice for Scottish Fin Fish Aquaculture which draws heavily on RUMA Guidelines.

7 John Webster – Medicines RUMA VMD

Session 2 Panel discussion on What influences Responsible Use?

Chaired by Professor Pete Boriello, CEO, VMD a panel considered what influences responsible use and discussed comments from delegates. The panel included

  • Professor Chris Conlon, MA, MD,FRCP, Consultant Physician Infectious Diseases, Oxford
  • John Blackwell, MRCVS, Senior Vice-President BVA
  • Professor David Barrett, MRCVS Bristol Vet School
  • Gwyn Jones, RUMA Chairman
  • Dr Ian Brown, OBE, BSc(Agric), FRCP, FFOM, Consultant Physician, University of Oxford, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs and member of the RUMA Alliance
  • Dr Tim Chadborn Public Health England, Behavioural Insights Team

The panel were in agreement that that education and behaviour were key drivers for influencing responsible use. In particular, there was a need for training to bring about sustainable behaviour change. A clear aim was needed along with strong leadership. Peer pressure was also important as it was a good way to spread best practice. The Role of retailers in influencing responsible use in agriculture was recognised, including the possibility of influencing non-EU suppliers which would help the global aspects of AMR. One of the retailer representatives said she would try to get a meeting arranged via BRC to explore this further. The need to remove antibiotic growth promoters from non-EU production was emphasised.

Session 3 If we can’t measure it we can’t control it

Liz Redmond MRCVS, VMD

Liz Redmond started the session by giving an outline of the strategic context and drivers for the collection of data on antibiotic usage in animals from a public policy perspective. The need for a better understanding of what and how antibiotics are being used in animals is highlighted by the UK’s 5 year AMR strategy and in European regulatory proposals and activities. The VMD already has good data sets on the quantity of antibiotics sold by veterinary pharmaceutical companies but information is lacking on the level of usage in each species of animal. The VMD recognised the key facilitating role of government in this area and Liz set out her work leading a programme to develop a co-ordinated UK national approach to data collection by species since early 2014. Priority has been placed on key livestock sectors i.e. pigs, poultry and cattle, and in each sector innovative and collaborative approaches have evolved and are growing to provide, over time, data suitable for national collation in a new VMD central data hub. This work is ongoing but illustrates the power of the UK animal sectors to identify and solve problems in a collective and creative way.

8 Liz Redmond Session 3 AMR data collection VMD presentation FINAL 291015

Martin Smith, MRCVS, AHDB Pork and Pig Health and Welfare Council Antimicrobial Use Sub-group

Martin Smith outlined the strategic approach being taken by the Pig Health and Welfare Council (PHWC) Antimicrobial Use Sub-group. The subgroup has recognised that the existing data on antibiotic usage within the pig sector is not reliable and does not reflect the true levels of usage on farm. The PHWC sub-group, in conjunction with AHDB Pork and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, has developed the specification for a database to record on farm medicines usage. The system is currently being built with a launch date of April 2016. It will have the capacity to be used as an electronic version of a medicines book and will also meet quality assurance scheme requirements (Red Tractor and QMS assured). Whilst the remit of the PHWC Antimicrobial Use Sub-group is wider than just developing a system to measure antibiotic usage, it has been widely accepted that without reliable data on levels of antimicrobials used, it is difficult to develop a targeted strategy for good antibiotic stewardship.

9 MArtin Smith AMR Pig Industry RUMA 031115

Máire Burnett, Technical Manager, British Poultry Council and Poultry Health and Welfare Group

Máire gave details of how the British Poultry Council collects antibiotic usage data from the poultry meat sector and how this data is presented to the VMD.  She also provided an update on where the other poultry sectors are with their plans for collecting antibiotic usage data.

10 Maire Burnett 2015_11_03_ruma_conference_bpc_mb

Brian Lindsay Secretary, Cattle Health and Welfare Group

Brian said that the AMR issue is fuelling many initiatives related to antimicrobial use in both humans and animals and the EU is currently working on developing systems to appreciate the levels of antimicrobial use in member states.  Having reviewed recording systems throughout the EU, the VMD recognised that many of these were not transferable to the UK cattle sector and as such there was a need to better understand our current situation and importantly, get ahead of the curve in establishing recording and reporting systems that we in the UK are comfortable with as opposed to having a potentially unsuitable system imposed on us.

As a result the Cattle Health and Welfare Group were commissioned by the VMD to get an appreciation of the potential to export anonymised and aggregated medicine use data from cattle, both beef and dairy, farms.  This involved a two pronged approach, starting with a series of interviews with a range of cattle farmers and support industries. At the same time the British Cattle Veterinary Association surveyed their members to ascertain if there was a potential to extract antibiotic use data from veterinary practice software.

The outcomes confirmed the CHAWG’s belief that although records were maintained on farm for legal compliance and farm assurance purposes, there was very limited export of this information away from the farm for any further use.

Brian said the cattle sector has opportunity to establish a system of data collection, from predominantly paper based records, in an unbureaucratic process that will also return value to the farmer.  A cattle sector workshop will be held in early 2016 to explore the issue with the aim of collaboratively designing a system, which could very well align with the excellent system designed by the pig sector, in an effort to achieve our aspirations.

11 Brian Lindsay CHWG

Dawn Howard CEO, NOAH – Compendium App

Dawn explained that NOAH (National Office of Animal Health) represents the UK animal medicines industry, with over 90% of the UK animal health market. Promoting the benefits of safe, effective, quality medicines for the health and welfare of all animals, NOAH supports the responsible manufacture, promotion, sale, distribution and use of animal medicines.

For many years the NOAH Compendium has been an essential reference tool for medicines prescribers such as veterinarians and SQPs (Suitably Qualified Persons). Updated annually, it is available in hard copy and supplied to all veterinary practices plus many universities and colleges as the key source of information on veterinary products to aid responsible prescribing and use.

Dawn said that the NOAH Compendium is also available online at and regularly receives over 2,500 views per day. NOAH is now bringing the Compendium up to date with new software, making vital information available in real time and via mobile apps (iOS and Android), enabling users to access Compendium data remotely. Data will now be linkable to wider industry partners both for recording medicines usage, in particular antibiotics, and to aid responsible use. Other features will be added to help users access Compendium information and record medicines as accurately and easily as possible, keeping the NOAH Compendium as the key reference for veterinary medicines.

12 Dawn Howard RUMA NOAH 031115

Phil Sketchley, BSc (Hons), Hon Assoc RCVS – NADIS Farm Medicines Tracker

Phil explained that when the new European Veterinary Medicines regulations to come into force, possibly in late 2017/2018, it is clear there will be a requirement for vets and farmers to record a high level of detail of antibiotics prescribed and used in farm livestock.

He said it is important that new tools and systems are made available to the farmer to help them comply with these additional requirements. The Farm Medicine Tracker has been set up in partnership with NADIS ( It will enable the farmer and their vet to electronically record medicine usage more easily, automate the process of logging that information for feeding into the regulatory hub recording, and also provide additional tools to aid and improve the management of animal treatments by the farmer and their vet, thereby providing a practical ally in the Responsible Use of medicines and enhance the measurable outcomes of treatment.

13 Phil Sketchley Farm Medicine Tracker

Session 4 How do we communicate what we are doing?

Professor Guy Poppy BSc, DPhil, Chief Scientific Adviser to the FSA

Professor Poppy said the Food Standards Agency is a Non Ministerial Government Department created by an Act of Parliament (1999) established to “protect public health and interest of consumers in relation to food”. A new strategic plan has been agreed for 2015-2020 focussed on “food we can trust”. Central to this is ensuring consumers are protected from unacceptable risk, can make informed decisions and have the best food future possible. The issue of AMR and how the food system contributes to AMR is an important issue and we have just initiated a systematic review to establish the evidence base and gaps. On AMR the FSA work with its Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACSMF) and other partners. The ACSMF set up an AMR Working Group in 2013 which is about to report.

He said the FSA put consumers first in their risk assessment, risk management and risk communication roles. They are carrying out a LA-MRSA risk assessment which is due to be published in Spring 2016.

Prof Poppy reminded delegates that consumers can protect themselves from bacterial infection from food by following the 4Cs advice on the FSA website i.e.

  • Proper Cooking
  • Proper Cleaning
  • Proper Chilling
  • Avoiding Cross-contamination

Amy Jackson Oxtale Specialist Communications

Amy said there was much more to be done to get over the information on what the livestock sector is doing about the issue of antibiotic resistance on-farm. She said that if she had less information than she did now, she would be horrified by a search on Google or Twitter. It’s an A-list of environmental lobbyists, pressure groups and anti-farming (or anti-efficient farming at least) campaigners hogging the top of the search engine results. Anyone forming their views from this would have a very polarised opinion. So we have an issue. But there are people out there managing issues very well and from whom we can learn. Examples included the government/industry collaboration that is reducing farm antibiotic use in the Netherlands, the information and discussion in the US via US Farmers and Ranchers, and the Food Dialogues initiative.

Amy said there is much to learn from these approaches. But first we have to accept we have an issue here in this country that we aren’t dealing with. The industry needs to work together to address it – at the moment there’s too much fragmented activity. We also need to adjust our tone and message. Currently, the industry information I read looks at best defensive, at worst, evasive. Let’s get real: there’s an issue, it’s affecting us, human use is the main problem, not animal, but we have a clear contribution to make. We need to be doing more – act, engage and secure our share of voice. We can’t communicate in a void; let’s also make sure there’s activity behind it. And remember – we can’t influence the message if we aren’t in the debate.

15 Amy Jackson RUMA conference 031115 FINAL(2)

Tom Sheldon Science Media Centre

Tom explained that the Science Media Centre is focused on the controversial science stories that hit the headlines. They see crisis and media rows on issues like badgers, antibiotic resistance, bees and pesticides, swine flu and foot and mouth as an opportunity as well as a threat. By avoiding controversy scientists lose out on the opportunity to engage the public and policy makers with the very best science and information available.

Tom used case studies to make the case for more scientists to enter the media fray when their issues are being misrepresented by journalists or campaign groups and explain why the SMC’s philosophy states: ‘the media will ‘DO’ science better when scientists ‘DO’ the media better’. He said that the SMC use scientific experts to provide comments for journalists and encouraged more experts from the livestock sector to get on their books.

16 Tom Sheldon SMC RUMA Conf 15

Tony Davies City & Guilds Responsible Use Qualifications for Veterinary Medicines

Tony explained that City & Guilds offer a range of Certificates of Competence in various disciplines which are widely used in the land based industries. There are various livestock qualifications which are used in both agriculture and animal care.   With the previous comments on the need for education and better trained farmers, Tony set out the opportunity for a stock person to take a relevant qualification – City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate of Technical Competence in the safe and responsible use of veterinary medicines. He explained how candidates could access the necessary training and assessment for the qualification which will be launched in February 2016. Tony gave a brief summary of the content of C&G’s qualification on the safe and responsible use of medicines on farm which provided an opportunity for all administering medicines to animals. RUMA will be using this work to develop the RUMA training toolkit on responsible use.

17 Tony Davies – RUMA Conf. presentation (1)

John FitzGerald                                                   Elizabeth Marier

RUMA                                                                   VMD

November 2015

RUMA announces voluntary restrictions on colistin use in UK livestock

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is pleased to announce voluntary restrictions on colistin use in UK livestock.

RUMA members considered the recent article in Lancet Infectious Disease reporting that a new gene that makes common bacteria resistant to colistin, a last-line antibiotic, had been found in animals and patients in China. They noted that the EU had called for a revised risk assessment on colistin use in animals and agreed, pending the results of the risk assessment, that colistin use will be restricted to an antibiotic of last resort and will be used only after susceptibility testing had shown it was the only effective antibiotic available for treating the sick animals. It was agreed that the Secretary General would propose this to the vet groups using colistin (pigs, poultry and cattle) to seek their agreement.

John FitzGerald, RUMA Secretary General, said that RUMA had consulted the veterinary sectors who use colistin and they had agreed to restrict their use of colistin while the risks were being re-assessed. He said this was a positive and proportionate response particularly as no E Coli colistin resistance in the UK was reported in the latest surveillance results.


  1. RUMA is an alliance of 24 organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald ( or see the RUMA website
  1. RUMA has formulated comprehensive guidelines for the responsible use of antimicrobials in livestock production. These give advice on all aspects from application and responsibilities of the farmer and veterinary surgeon, to strategies for reduced usage.
  1. The Lancet article can be found at
  1. The latest surveillance results are on page 95 of the UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance Report 2014 which can be found at

RUMA comment on antibiotic resistance report from China

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) was invited by the Science Media Centre to comment on an article in today’s Lancet Infectious Disease. The article reported that a new gene that makes common bacteria resistant to colistin, a last-line antibiotic, had been found in animals and patients in China.

John FitzGerald, RUMA Secretary General, said that David Burch a veterinarian, specialist in pig medicine, consultant to the animal health industry and independent RUMA member provided the following statement on behalf of RUMA.

“The report of a new resistance gene (mcr-1) against polymixins (colistin) found in Escherichia coli from pigs in China, which can be potentially plasmid transferred between bacterial species and potentially to man via meat, is indeed disturbing and disappointing. Formerly, colistin resistance both in man and animals was thought to be chromosomally related and therefore unlikely to be transferred.

It is noted that most of the genetic work was carried out on a plasmid basis and not on the resistance gene itself, so the final link between pigs, pork, man and human disease has not been completely established. Recent work looking at attribution of extended-spectrum beta lactamase resistance from food to man has shown that man to man is the major contributor (99.74%: 0.26%) (Burch, 2015) due to hospital and care facility spread of bacteria carrying the resistance genes. Further genetic work is required to confirm the direct linkage between food and man with the mcr-1 gene.

So saying, it must be remembered that China has the largest pig production in the World over twice that of Europe’s, they are major producers of generic antimicrobial drugs and their use in animals is not normally under veterinary control. Fortunately, the supply of live pigs and pork is in the direction from Europe to China and due to the nature of the endemic diseases in China, such as Foot and Mouth Disease, it is unlikely that this will be reversed. The possibility of transfer by man, however, is a more likely risk with increased trade and tourism between the two regions of the World. This is a good example of the complexity and global nature of antibiotic resistance and the need for countries to work together to address this One Health issue.

In the response to the European Commission by the European Medicines Agency (2013) regarding the use of old classes of antibiotics, like colistin, which have been re-introduced to treat multi-resistant bacteria in humans they recommended: – “Despite the abundant use of colistin in veterinary medicine for over 50 years, from the available information colistin resistance transmission via horizontal gene transfer or sustained clonal expansion has not been observed for the target Gram-negative organisms. However the rapid emergence of resistance in humans after oral use in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for selective digestive tract decontamination shows that resistance in Enterobacteriaceae can emerge following oral use. The lack of emergence of resistance should be addressed with caution since in depth epidemiological surveys in veterinary medicine are scarce. Large studies combining consumption and resistance are limited, because colistin susceptibility tests are not fully reliable.

There is a need to implement robust systems for surveillance of antimicrobial resistance to detect any potential increase of colistin resistance in animal bacteria in the future that could lead to a review of the current advice.”

In Europe, 80% of polymixin (mainly colistin) sales are made in only 3/26 Member States i.e. Spain Germany and Italy (ESVAC, 2015) and it would be of great value to review the surveillance data from these countries to see if the situation has changed dramatically in recent years, before any radical decisions over restrictions of use in veterinary medicine are made here. The health and welfare of the animals treated responsibly with this medication also needs to be weighed up against any possible over-reaction before a full review has taken place.”


Burch, D.G.S. (2015) Use of antibiotics in animals and people. Veterinary Record, 177, 11, 292-293.

EMA (2013) European Medicines Agency – Answer to the first request from the European Commission for scientific advice on the impact on public health and animal health of the use of antibiotics in animals. EMA/363834/2013.

ESVAC (2015) European Medicines Agency – Fifth ESVAC report – Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 26 EU/EAA countries in 2013.




  1. RUMA is an alliance of 24 organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald ( or see the RUMA website


  1. RUMA has formulated comprehensive guidelines for the responsible use of antimicrobials in livestock production. These give advice on all aspects from application and responsibilities of the farmer and veterinary surgeon, to strategies for reduced usage.


Antibiotic Awareness Day 18 November 2015 – Sign the Pledge

Join the Antibiotic Pledge at

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is delighted to support European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November.

RUMA Secretary General, John FitzGerald, said he was pleased to see RUMA members such as the BVA and NFU using antibiotic awareness day to provide information on the responsible use of antibiotics which are key medicines in both human and animal health. Responsible use of antibiotics in livestock helps to maintain animal health and welfare and provide safe food for the consumer. Antibiotics should not be used as a substitute for good farm management which helps prevent disease and reduce the need for medicines.

Antibiotic Awareness Day provides an ideal opportunity for everyone to confirm their support for using antibiotics responsibly by signing the pledge to become an antibiotic guardian at

“There are pledges relevant for everyone, to show how they, personally, can support responsible use,” explained Mr FitzGerald. “As well as those aimed at the medical profession and the public, there are specific pledges for veterinarians, farmers and indeed pet owners too.” Mr FitzGerald added that he has taken the pledge and he encourages others to do so.


  1. RUMA is an alliance of 24 organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald ( or see the RUMA website
  1. RUMA has formulated comprehensive guidelines for the responsible use of antimicrobials in livestock production. These give advice on all aspects from application and responsibilities of the farmer and veterinary surgeon, to strategies for reduced usage.

RUMA/VMD Conference – Responsible Use: Ideas into Action

RUMA Conference

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is delighted to be hosting today with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) the first joint conference on the responsible use of medicines in animals. It is an excellent example of industry and government working together to help veterinarians and farmers use medicines responsibly and to tackle the serious health risks caused by antibiotic resistance.

John FitzGerald, RUMA General Secretary, said “there has been much mention of responsible medicine use in both human and animal sectors and this One Health Conference aims to take this a stage further by investigating how we can turn “Ideas into Action”.

“With more than 150 delegates and speakers there has been good interest in the conference in which high profile speakers from both the human and animal sectors and the delegates will look more at the practical issues of responsible use and not just the related science.   The aim will be to stimulate discussion so that we can engage with and learn from each other as well as contribute to the Conference outcomes.”

RUMA and the VMD will issue a joint communication following the conference to highlight its key messages.


1. RUMA is an alliance of 24 organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm.  For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald ( or see the RUMA website

2. VMD (an Executive Agency of Defra) is the UK regulator of veterinary medicines assuring their safety, quality and effectiveness. For further information about the VMD contact Matthew Isted at or search for the VMD on

3. RUMA and the VMD are very grateful for the generous support from Sainsbury’s who have provided the venue and all catering free of charge.

RUMA Launches New Cattle Guidelines on the Responsible Use of Antimicrobials

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is delighted to launch its revised guidelines for farmers and vets on the Responsible Use of Antimicrobials in Cattle Production. They are available on RUMA’s new-look website at

RUMA Secretary General, John FitzGerald, said the revised guidelines were prepared as part of RUMA’s programme of regularly updating its guidelines. He said that the new revision had been updated with extensive help from the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) for which RUMA was very grateful.

Mr FitzGerald said that the new version of the Cattle Antimicrobial Guidelines for farmers stressed the need to manage farms to reduce disease challenge and minimise antimicrobial use. More detailed advice was included in the vets’ Guideline to help them work with their farmer clients to achieve this. Both Guidelines include practical advice and highlight the Four Golden Rules on Disease Control i.e.

  • biosecurity to limit disease spread
  • avoid stress
  • good hygiene
  • good nutrition.

RUMA Guidelines were first introduced in 2000 and are intended as working documents. They are updated periodically to continually provide best advice.

Now in their 3rd editions, the short version provides quick and easy guiding principles that can be used as a working document by farmers, while the longer version is aimed primarily at veterinary surgeons and other advisers, to provide more detail.

The holistic approach to minimising disease set out by the Four Golden Rules helps reduce the need to use antimicrobials, including antibiotics, without adversely affecting animal welfare. It is important to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance without reducing the availability of necessary antibiotics.

Like all RUMA Guidelines, the new Cattle Guidelines are available free of charge on the RUMA website



  1. RUMA is an alliance of 24 organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald ( or see the RUMA website
  2. RUMA Guidelines are regularly reviewed in consultation with RUMA members and specialist groups working in the relevant sector.
  3. The Four Golden Rules on Disease Control are explained in the attached table which is included in the Guidelines
Disease Control: Four Guiding Principles
Rule 1 Review biosecurity of new cattle introduced into a herd Disease spreads around and between farms by contact with other cattle. Screening and monitoring will help to limit the spread of disease. REMEMBER contact can also be INDIRECT by a needle, surgical instrument, manure or people.
Rule 2 “Stress” is a killer. Stressed animals are far more likely to become diseased. This includes not only obvious physical stress factors such as overcrowding or management procedures; but also exposure to micro-organisms which cause major stress to the immune system e.g. BVD. THINK – If a procedure causes the cattle to become stressed, ask “can this be done in a less stressful manner?” e.g. castration, introduction of heifers to the dairy herd.
Rule 3 Good Management and Hygiene There is no substitute for good management, hygiene and biosecurity measures. Cleaning buildings and equipment coupled with good hygiene will all make a difference. Don’t spread disease by poor management and hygiene.
Rule 4 Good Nutrition Good intakes of colostrum provide essential antibodies to protect calves as their immune system is developing. Balanced diets with adequate levels of trace elements, vitamins and anti-oxidants are essential if the immune system of cattle is to work properly in tackling diseases.


RUMA Publishes Guidelines on the Responsible Use of Antimicrobials in Dry Cow Management

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is delighted to publish its first ever Guidelines on the Responsible Use of Antimicrobials in Dry Cow Management.

RUMA Secretary General, John FitzGerald, said that RUMA had produced these new Guidelines to help vets and farmers determine how best to treat cows in the drying off period to prevent and treat the development of bacterial disease such as mastitis in the udder. In line with responsible use principles, the Guidelines stress the need to manage farms to reduce disease challenge and minimise antimicrobial use. In particular, the Guidelines highlight the need to monitor milk quality and infection status using somatic cell counts and bacteriology, where appropriate, at the herd and individual cow level and to use the monitoring results to decide the appropriate strategy for each cow to be dried off

  • do nothing and monitor closely for the potential development of mastitis (a health and welfare risk for the cow)
  • use an internal teat sealant
  • use a dry cow antibiotic
  • use both an internal teat sealant and antibiotic.

Elizabeth Berry, representing the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), led the preparation of the Guidelines. She said that BCVA supported the production of these Guidelines and, in particular, the promotion of communication between vets and farmers on the management and appropriate use of medicines, including non-antibiotic therapies, for cows during the dry period.

Like all RUMA Guidelines, the new Dry Cow Management Guidelines are available free of charge on the RUMA website


  1. RUMA is an alliance of organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. A full list of RUMA members is at paragraph 3 below. For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald ( or see the RUMA website
  2. RUMA Guidelines are regularly reviewed in consultation with RUMA members and specialist groups working in the relevant sector.
  3. Guidelines can be viewed at: Responsible Use of Antimicrobials in Dry Cow Management
  4. RUMA’s 24 members are:
    • Agricultural Industries Confederation
    • AHDB – Dairy (formerly DairyCo)
    • AHDB – Pigs (formerly BPEX) and AHDB – Beef and Lamb (formerly EBLEX)
    • Animal Health Distributors Association
    • Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority
    • Assured Food Standards
    • British Egg Industry Council
    • British Poultry Council
    • British Retail Consortium
    • British Veterinary Association
    • City and Guilds Land Based Services
    • Dairy UK
    • Game Farmers’ Association
    • LEAF
    • National Beef Association
    • National Farmers’ Union
    • National Office of Animal Health
    • National Pig Association
    • National Sheep Association
    • NFU Scotland
    • Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers
    • RSPCA
    • Royal Pharmaceutical Society
    • Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation
  5. Observers
    • Food Standards Agency
    • Veterinary Medicines Directorate

RUMA Welcomes New Member, Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation

RUMA is pleased to announce that the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) has joined the Alliance.

In welcoming the SSPO, RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald said “RUMA’s strength is the breadth of interest covered by its members and this has been increased by the addition of the Scottish Salmon Producers who will be able to provide valuable expertise on the responsible use of medicines in aquaculture.”

Scott Landsburgh Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation said:

Scottish-Salmon-Producers-Organisation-Logo“Scottish salmon producers recognise the importance of using medicines sensibly. Our members adhere to the industry Code of Good Practice for finfish aquaculture which reflects best practice in animal health by applying the latest innovative techniques. Joining RUMA helps us to underpin our ongoing commitment to fish health and welfare, reinforcing our pledge to produce food responsibly.”


  1. RUMA is an alliance of organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. A full list of RUMA members is at paragraph 3 below. For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald ( or see the RUMA website
  1. The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation represents salmon farming in Scotland. It is at the centre of salmon farming’s industry-wide initiatives and public communication, acting as a trusted source of information, a strong industry voice and a focus through which industry leadership and objectives can be channelled. The SSPO plays a central role in representing the industry on political, regulatory, media and technical issues in Scotland, the UK, EU and internationally.
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