Archive for the ‘RUMA News’ Category

Targets Task Force co-ordinates on antibiotic reduction in farming

A new ‘Targets Task Force’ has met for the first time to discuss how meaningful objectives to reduce, refine and replace antibiotic use in all UK livestock sectors can be identified.

At this first workshop, the group, set up by RUMA (an agricultural and food industry alliance which promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals), shared the wide range of activities already underway. It then discussed how each sector could play its part in what is an international push across human and animal medicine to reduce use of antibiotics.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones says a common, co-ordinated strategy was agreed at the meeting and that over the coming months, each sector will define objectives to lower disease burden, improve immunity and use products more effectively to minimise the development of antibiotic resistance.

He says: “Currently, the UK is among the lower users of antibiotics in farming in Europe. Recently published antibiotic sales data for food producing animals also shows a 10% reduction between 2014 and 2015, progress the industry hopes to continue.

“Despite this, we all understand the message that we must further reduce antibiotic use where it’s possible to do so without impacting animal welfare.

“The benefit of the Targets Task Force became apparent at this first meeting, in the sharing of information, ideas and motivation; we are confident that by learning and getting inspiration from each other across different sectors, we can bring about the step change needed.”

The Targets Task Force was proposed by RUMA after the O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance’s final report was published in May 2016.

While the Government response to this report has challenged UK agriculture to reduce average antibiotic use by a fifth to 50mg/kg by 2018, it has supported the move for the industry to develop its own sector-specific targets, asking for these to be confirmed by the end of 2017.

The Task Force is scheduled to meet every two months throughout next year with update announcements planned after each meeting.



In response to story about E coli in chicken, 21 November 2016

In response to a new story about E coli in chicken, RUMA refers to the official Government response.

A Government spokesperson said:

“This study by Public Health England concluded that this type of E. coli does not represent a major public health risk in the UK – a view supported by the Food Standards Agency.

“As ever, cooking meat properly kills all bacteria, whether or not it is resistant to antibiotics.

“We take both food safety and antibiotic resistance very seriously. This is why we support the work of the FSA to make sure our food is safe, and why we are working with countries around the world to reduce antibiotic use in people and animals.”

Background on antibiotic use in animals

  • This study is important for improving our knowledge of the development of antibiotic resistance and how it can spread.
  • Sales of antibiotics for use in animals in the UK are at a four-year low, dropping 10% between 2014 and 2015, putting the UK on track to meet ambitious targets to tackle antibiotic resistance, according to the latest VARSS (Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance) report.
  • Between 2014 and 2015 the British Poultry Council, which represents 90% of meat poultry, reported a 27% reduction in overall antibiotic use. It reported significant reductions in the use of high priority critically important antibiotics, with a 52% drop in use of fluoroquinolones and zero use of 3rd & 4th generation cephalosporins.
  • Veterinary use of the Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics remains low, representing just over 1% of all antibiotics sold for use in animals in 2015. This includes a 3% reduction in fluoroquinolones and an 11% reduction in 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins.

Background on the FSA

 The Food Standards Agency work closely with the food industry, from farm to fork, to reduce the risk of foodborne disease and ensure the food we buy and eat is safe.

10% fall in UK antibiotic sales shows farming industry is rising to challenge of antimicrobial resistance

A 10% reduction in sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals in the UK has been described as ‘very encouraging’ by RUMA, the agricultural and food industry alliance which promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals.

As well as showing the reduction in average sales from 62mg per Population Correction Unit (PCU – equivalent to kg) to 56mg/PCU, the newly-issued 2015 sales data reported by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) indicates a fall in sales of some critically important antibiotics (CIAs) – 3% in fluoroquinolones, 11% in 3rd generation cephalosporins – and an overall 9% drop in tonnes of antibiotics used.

RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald says: “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’s a fine balance to reduce and refine use of antibiotics without compromising animal welfare. These results bode well for the 2016 figures as momentum builds in tackling the challenge of antibiotic resistance in farm animals.”

Of particular note, says Mr FitzGerald, is a 23 tonne (10%) reduction in sales of products licensed for both pigs and poultry, and 16 tonne (24%) fall in pig-only products. The poultry meat industry, which records data for 90% of the national flock under its British Poultry Council antibiotic stewardship scheme, also reports a reduction of 27% in use over 2014. Sales into fish farming have fallen by 71% and totalled just 0.7 tonne in 2015.

He adds that despite the reductions, populations of resistant bacteria monitored by the VMD appear relatively static; resistance levels in Salmonella isolates, notable to critically important antibiotics, from cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry remain low and resistance demonstrated by cattle mastitis pathogens is broadly similar to previous years.

Furthermore, what appears to be an increase in pig samples testing positive for the ESBL E. coli bacteria that transfer resistance is actually due to a change in testing methodology, with parallel testing using the previous method showing little change from two years ago when it was last the turn of the pig sector to be tested.

Mr FitzGerald says: “This means we are not seeing any increased risk to humans from transmission of antimicrobial resistance through food, and good kitchen hygiene rules still apply – washing hands after handling raw meat and thorough cooking of meat will almost completely prevent the transmission of resistant bacteria.

“However, these findings do highlight the challenge; tackling antibiotic resistance is going to take more than just a reduction in use – we need a multi-faceted approach which includes strategic use of a range of medicines to reduce and eliminate disease pressure while we also increase inherent immunity to disease among our farm animals.”

In response to the O’Neill report released in May 2016, RUMA has set up a Targets Task Force including researchers, farming organisations, farmers and practising vets, which will work alongside the VMD to help identify meaningful objectives for each farming sector towards reducing and refining antibiotics. The group is due to report its recommendations in 2017.


Information website launched to review antibiotic use on farms

A new website launched by RUMA to coincide with World Antibiotic Awareness Week (14-20 November) explains the facts about antibiotic resistance as well as consolidating scientific data and the details of the steps being taken to tackle the challenge of resistant bacteria in livestock into one place.

RUMA, the agricultural and food industry alliance promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals, says the site,, provides impartial, factual information for commentators, media and industry to readily access.

RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald says: “Handy downloadable infographics and the latest news will help inform the debate around this important topic as there is a tendency to attribute the growth in resistant bacteria mainly to the farming industry, which is not borne out by the facts.

“The industry, vets and farmers have a major part to play and a shared responsibility in looking at ways to reduce antibiotic use and refine practices but it’s important to recognise the transfer of resistant bacteria from animal to human currently remains very low. We must work to keep it that way.”

Mr FitzGerald says the site also reports the progress made by RUMA members in looking at ways to reduce antibiotic use and refine practices without jeopardising the high health and welfare standards of our livestock.

“This delivers on the UK 5-year AMR Strategy which was launched on 10 September 2013. RUMA was among the groups that welcomed and supported the strategy, and has now published its second progress update of the work that has been done across the UK livestock sector in the 28 months since the plan was first published.”

For more information, go to and


Industry steps up to antibiotic resistance challenge

The UK 5-year AMR Strategy was launched on 10 September 2013. RUMA was among the groups that welcomed and supported the strategy.

RUMA published an action plan, based on the detailed actions in Annex B of the Strategy, in April 2014. This plan sets out the actions that RUMA and/or its members will take.

This is the executive summary of the second progress update of the plan, setting out the highlights of the work done across the UK livestock sector in the 28 months since the plan was first published. Full details of all the work being done is included in the plan. The actions set out in the plan include:

  1. Antibiotic Stewardship
  • The BPC’s Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme set up in 2011 developed a mechanism of collecting usage data from the poultry meat sector on an annual basis. The Scheme’s key focus is responsible use and, when possible, a reduction in use of those antibiotics considered to be of most highly critical importance by the WHO. Measures are in place to ensure that most highly critical antibiotics are only permitted if they are the sole therapeutic option to alleviate bird pain and suffering. In 2012, the BPC introduced a voluntary ban on the use of third and fourth generation cephalosporins and a commitment to reduce the use of fluoroquinolones. The BPC recognised the increasing importance of colistin as an antibiotic of last resort for human medicine and stopped its use in September 2015. In 2016 the Scheme made a further commitment to stop the prophylactic use of fluoroquinolones in day old chickens.
  • NPA launched the pig industry Antibiotic Stewardship Programme in May 2016. The programme aims to capture and collate antibiotic use data recorded on pig farms, benchmark antibiotic use against farms of a similar type, extend education in effective disease control strategies, reduce antibiotic use, consistent with responsible human and food-animal medicine, promote PVS prescribing principles to strictly limit the use of antibiotics of critical importance to human health and appoint Stewardship Commissars to continually review industry’s use of antimicrobials and champion initiatives.
  1. Reducing the need to use antibiotics
  • Red Tractor’s revised Farm Assurance Standards, effective from October 2014, introduced a more review focused approach to health planning to identify potential disease and biosecurity issues to minimise the spread of disease within the farm and between other farms. Through compliance with assurance scheme standards on biosecurity, animal health and welfare (including segregation pens for sick animals) and responsible use of medicines more than 85% of the poultry meat industry, 95% of dairy farms and 92% of pork production are working to biosecurity and husbandry practices to minimise disease occurrence. Red Tractor has begun a review of the new standards which will be updated again in October 2017.
  • NPA and AHDB Pork have produced biosecurity Standard Operating Procedures for the entire pig production chain, from feed deliveries and visitors on farm to fallen stock collection and lorry washing at abattoirs in an attempt to raise biosecurity standards on farm. AHDB Pork released their new BioRisk biohazard perception tool in May 2016 to increase awareness among pig farm staff of the biosecurity risks that exist and to help them identify the risks on their own farms in order to be able to mitigate future risk.
  • NPA has developed import protocols with the UK pig breeding companies which outline testing required for imported stock and semen in order to prevent the entry of diseases of concern into the UK including LA-MRSA. Red Tractor members must now prove that they are abiding by the protocol in order to gain the derogation required to import any live animals or semen into the UK.
  1. Collecting Antibiotic Use Data
  • The BPC’s Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme collects antibiotic usage data covering 90% of UK poultry meat production across chicken (meat), turkeys and ducks. It was the first sector to share its data with the VMD and the 2012-2015 data was included in their annual VARRS report. Over the period 2012-2015, the total amount of antibiotics used by the poultry meat sector decreased by 43% while production increased by 5% over the same period. The sector saw a 27% reduction in 2015, from 63.46 tonnes in 2014 to 46.17 tonnes in 2015. Between 2014 and 2015 the Scheme reduced its total antibiotic use in chickens by 39%.
  • AHDB-Pork launched an electronic medicines book (eMB) for recording and benchmarking antimicrobial and other medicine use in April 2016. By October, the equivalent of more than a quarter of the finishing herd had submitted antibiotic use data to the eMB, covering 535 sites and over 5.6 million pigs. Efforts are being made to get data from the large corporate pig businesses onto the system, which will significantly increase coverage.
  • A CHAWG industry workshop in January 2016 considered how to collect antimicrobial use data in cattle and CHAWG is consulting the cattle sectors and vets on the options available.
  1. Knowledge Transfer


Response to healthcare professionals’ letter regarding ‘mass medication’ and preventative treatments

In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph today (14 November), a number of healthcare professionals urge Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, to ‘immediately introduce a UK-wide ban on the routine preventative mass medication of animals and urgently curb farm use of the ‘critically important’ antibiotics’.

This message is exceptionally disappointing considering the strong directive from those heading human and animal medicine in the UK to stop the ‘blame game’ on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as we all work together to implement the global One Health AMR strategy.

In fact this type of orchestrated rhetoric, supported by scant facts, is potentially harmful to the health and welfare of our farm animals, pets and horses.

We currently use 37% of the UK’s antibiotics to manage disease and infection, and produce safe food from over a billion farm animals in the UK every year. Strict withdrawal periods mean antibiotic residues in food are not an issue, but overall use, as in human medicine, must fall as farming plays its part in reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The farming industry is taking this seriously. In poultry meat production total antibiotic use fell by 43% between 2012 and 2015 and use of some critically important antibiotics (CIAs) halved; in 2016, a further commitment was made to stop the prophylactic use of fluoroquinolones in day old chickens. The vital antibiotic colistin, which for decades was used almost solely in veterinary medicine, has been voluntarily restricted in all species and many CIAs – currently forming less than 1% of annual use – can only be applied by individual injection.

The UK is among the lower users of antibiotics in farming within the EU and, in reducing use by some 60% in the past six years, the Netherlands is now at approximately the same level as us. While we rise to the challenge the Government has set of reducing antibiotic use in farming by around 20% by 2018, we are pushing ahead with setting our own sector-specific objectives to cut and refine use through a RUMA-led Targets Task Force set up earlier this year.

We eagerly await the latest annual UK antibiotic data, to be released later this week, to see what progress is being made and keep focused on the goal of progressively reducing, refining and replacing antibiotic use in a measured and scientifically-robust way. This is despite resistance in humans continuing to be largely attributed to human medicine – studies across five European countries including the UK indicate farm animal use is potentially associated with as few as 1 in every 370 human clinical cases of E. coli infection.

On method of treatment, we need to be clear. Taking away the option, without good reason, to treat preventatively or to administer treatment in the most effective manner or to restrict certain products already being used responsibly and at very low levels, risks creating more severe disease problems and poor welfare.

We need to migrate to methods of managing disease which involve lower use of antibiotics but when disease threatens, preventative treatment, sometimes of groups of animals, can be the most effective and least stressful course of action for the animals involved. Healthcare professionals mirror this when treating meningococcal infections in children.

Caring for the health and welfare of animals is a serious business and one which should not be jeopardised by poor research and avoiding responsibility. During this World Antibiotic Awareness Week, we urge all those in human and animal medicine alike to use this opportunity to find out more about the specific and joint challenges faced by our respective industries, and to come together in sharing knowledge, best practice and responsibility.


Response to new report from the Food Standards Agency released 21 September 2016

In response to the release of a new report from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) outlining test results for resistant bacteria in food, Gwyn Jones, Chair of RUMA, says:

Test results such as these build a better picture of the challenges we all face across human and veterinary medicine.

Good kitchen hygiene, washing hands after handling raw meat and thorough cooking, as advised by the FSA, remain the most reliable ways of preventing the spread of any harmful bacteria.

This is important as these test results underline the complexity of the problem we face. Bacteria naturally ‘dodge’ antibiotics – it’s why we find resistant bacteria millions of years old in the ice caps and in frozen remains of woolly mammoths.

Here, some campylobacter and E.coli have developed resistance to antibiotics rarely used in broiler (chicken) production, in this case fluoroquinolones, as confirmed by sales and use data.

We saw this phenomenon in a study earlier this month from University of Cambridge where the greatest level of resistance was to cephalosporins, which the poultry industry has itself banned since 2012.

So as the focus on recording and reducing use in agriculture without impacting welfare continues with the whole industry’s engagement, we hope testing and research will start to throw light on how to overcome this complex challenge for humans as well as animals.

While a number of studies suggest the risk of resistant bacteria passing from animal to man is exceptionally low, a robust review of the science would also help us understand any links.

Government response to O’Neill findings welcomed amid calls for joined-up leadership and capital investment

The headline requirements for farming set out in the Government response to the O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, published today (16 September 2016), have been welcomed by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance.

But concerns have been expressed over how the multi-agency approach will work, and whether the industry can access the capital investment needed to create a greater step-change in antibiotic use.

RUMA, which works independently with organisations involved in all stages of the animal food chain from ‘farm to fork’, said it recognised the need for the ambitious target for farming set out in the report, alongside the goals for human medicine stewardship.

“The UK farming industry is being asked to play its part, in reducing antibiotic use by around 19% by 2018 based on sales recorded by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate in 2014,” explained John FitzGerald, RUMA’s secretary general.

“This will be testing, but we are confident and determined that the industry can rise to the challenge. While the O’Neill report suggested achieving this level of use within 10 years, we understand the need for the UK to take a lead, and believe we can deliver this reduction by 2018.

“We also appreciate the faith the Government has placed in the industry to work with the regulator in developing its own sector-specific objectives to reduce, refine and replace use of antibiotics,” he added.

“Included in this is use of antibiotics of critical medical importance, which we have been given an opportunity to steward effectively and potentially preserve as a last resort to protect animal welfare. Again, we accept this challenge, and are currently setting up a ‘Targets Task Force’ to help identify these objectives by 2017, alongside timescales for their delivery.”

However, Mr FitzGerald said RUMA was disappointed that in the response, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had not acknowledged the industry guidelines for use of antibiotics that were already in place through RUMA.

“The FSA outlines a commitment to encourage the food chain to develop standards for responsible use of antibiotics. We would hope that rather than recreating standards, the RUMA guidelines, written by specialist vets and updated periodically, will be reviewed and augmented as deemed necessary.

“It’s important that existing resources and initiatives such as these don’t get overlooked as the various Government departments and agencies come together to tackle this issue. We need clear leadership from one Government department to help pull this together, and suggest it comes from Defra through the VMD, with the FSA and Environment Agency linking in through these bodies.”

Finally, said Mr FitzGerald, there was no recognition in the report of the huge role capital investment could play in reducing the need for antibiotics in farming, and where that investment could come from.

“Farmers have already identified housing and infrastructure as a major challenge. In pig farming, some aspects of poultry production and calf-rearing especially, modern housing with improved ventilation and hygiene could provide a step-change in the need for antibiotics to treat diseases linked to these factors.

“But with many sectors continuing to work off tiny margins and competing with European and global imports, the Government needs to take a serious look at how it can ‘prime the pump’ when the market is unlikely to provide sufficient returns to fund these changes itself,” explained Mr FitzGerald.

“Government investment or match funding in competitor countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark has allowed significant improvements to facilities leading to a reduction in antibiotic use. Such an approach in the UK would address a similar failure in the market and accelerate positive change.”

RUMA urges G20 to recognise complexity of AMR

A paper challenging global business leaders to recognise the complexity of the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) challenge in humans and animals and role of agriculture, has been circulated at the G20 Summit, which took place at Hangzhou, Zhejiang in China on 4 and 5 September.

The paper, submitted by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance and published in the International Chamber of Commerce G20 CEO Advisory Group’s “Business and Leaders” magazine, also asks the G20 to work with regulators and vets to develop bespoke solutions for farmers in each country so they can reduce, refine and replace use of antibiotics.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones says that through the publication’s readership of 80,000 business leaders, it is hoped the article will place some much-needed context around the role of medicines in livestock farming.

“Resistance is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that develops as bacteria defend themselves against attack, so any antibiotic use can lead to resistance. In fact, resistant bacteria that are millions of years old, pre-dating modern medicine, have been found in the ice caps,” he explains.

“With AMR is very much on the G20’s agenda, it’s very important that global political and business leaders understand this and other complexities around AMR in terms of the causes, the role of antibiotics in humans and animals, and the challenges of tackling resistance sustainably and effectively.”

He says antibiotics are used to treat or prevent disease in farmed livestock but in some countries outside Europe, are still used for growth promotion. “They remain a vital veterinary tool to protect animal health and animal welfare and help us to continue to produce safe, quality food.”

Mr Jones says the challenges to improving the responsibility with which antibiotics are used varies from country to country.

“In developed countries the barriers can revolve around supply chains, market pressure and communication. In developing countries, the focus is more on extended veterinary services to help farmers get the right medicine for treating their animals and to use those medicines at the right time and in the right way.”

He adds that responsible use also means using antibiotics ‘as little as possible and as much as necessary’. “In other words, managing farms to reduce the risk of infection by improving hygiene, using good quality feed, giving the animals access to fresh water, using vaccines and controlling the movement of animals and people into and around the farm through good biosecurity practises.”

The International Chamber of Commerce G20 CEO Advisory Group’s “Business and Leaders” magazine can be accessed at

In its concluding communiqué, the G20 stated: “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a serious threat to public health, growth and global economic stability. We affirm the need to explore in an inclusive manner to fight antimicrobial resistance by developing evidence-based ways to prevent and mitigate resistance, and unlock research and development into new and existing antimicrobials from a G20 value-added perspective, and call on the WHO, FAO, OIE and OECD to collectively report back in 2017 on options to address this including the economic aspects.”

RUMA response to findings from Antibiotic Resistance Testing of Supermarket Meat

RUMA chairman Gwyn Jones says the farming industry fully recognises concerns about growing resistance to antibiotics, but resistance in humans remains largely attributed to human medical use with a recent study confirming farm animal use could be responsible for as few as one in every 370 clinical cases.

He says: “Good kitchen hygiene, washing hands after handling raw meat and thorough cooking of meat will almost completely prevent the transmission of antimicrobial resistance from meat to man.

“Despite this, the farming industry must also play its part to control spread of resistance. This is why RUMA announced in May it is setting up an industry task force to look at how meaningful targets can be developed to replace, reduce and refine antibiotic use in UK agriculture. That group is now being formed and a first meeting will be held shortly.”

Addressing some of the specific points raised, Mr Jones says UK farming is already focused on reducing use of antibiotics deemed critically important for human medicine (CIAs).

“Sales into farming of fluoroquinolones and 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins,  which are CIAs, are already very low in the UK, representing just 0.9% of the total,” he explains.

“In 2012 the poultry meat industry introduced a voluntary ban on the use of 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins, and a commitment to reduce the use of fluoroquinolones which has since led to an overall reduction. The 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins authorised for use in pigs cannot be given in-feed or in-water and are only ever administered to individual animals.

“Furthermore, despite colistin making up less than 0.2% of UK antibiotic use in UK livestock, RUMA announced a voluntary restriction in December 2015 that it should only be used as the last effective antibiotic available for treating the sick animal,” adds Mr Jones.

“So while it’s very positive that no colistin and fluoroquinolone resistance was found in these samples, the discovery of bacteria resistant to modern cephalosporins when so few are being used only serves to underline the complexity of this issue, and the need to tread carefully – as interventions are not without consequence.”

He explains that bacterial infections and associated inflammation undoubtedly cause pain and discomfort to animals. The treatment of such infections is a requirement of both national and EU animal welfare legislation and all vets are under oath to protect the health and welfare of the animals in their care.

“Therefore, the benefits of any restrictions for public health need to be clear, and balanced against the impact of restricted antibiotic use on animal welfare, the economic viability of our farms and overall UK food security. Badly handled, there is a real risk we will end up importing produce which increases risk to human health if our own, highly-regulated industry is rendered unviable through arbitrary curbs.

The European Medicines Agency Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use (CVMP): “It is recognized that the biggest driver of AMR in people is the use of antimicrobials in humans or human health.”
UK Department of Health 5 Year Strategy on Antimicrobial Resistance (2013) “Increasing scientific evidence suggests that the clinical issues with antimicrobial resistance that we face in human medicine are primarily the result of antibiotic use in people, rather than the use of antibiotics in animals.”
Burch, D. 2015 – Use of antibiotics in animals and people. November 28, 2015, Veterinary Record, 549-550 doi:10.1136/vr.h6380
UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance

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