Archive for January, 2017

New European report shows UK farming on right track to reduce antimicrobial resistance

RUMA has welcomed the summary conclusions from a European Medicines Agency (EMA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) joint opinion on EU measures to reduce antimicrobial use in animals, and especially the recognition that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

The two European agencies laid out their joint opinion in a statement published today, saying that a combination of interventions tailored to each local situation was needed. These include recording both use and the development of resistance, establishing a national target for antimicrobial use reduction and reducing inherent disease risk on each farm.

The opinion recommends that options should be reviewed to phase out most preventive use of antimicrobials but accepts there could be exceptional circumstances that require such use. Furthermore, it says access to critically important antimicrobials should be restricted and only used in animals as a last resort.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones said the detail in the opinion was yet to be fully digested but it was positive that the two agencies acknowledged different situations required different approaches; the main recommendations also suggested UK farming was on the right track.

Mr Jones said: “The acknowledgement that there is no perfect system and each local situation needs its own multifaceted approach to reducing use of antimicrobials is refreshing. There has been a tendency for critics to promote alternative farming systems or demand blanket implementation of rules in other countries, when what we actually need is to reduce use in a sustainable way that safeguards animal welfare.”

Reviewing other aspects of the report, Mr Jones said RUMA’s guidelines on preventive treatment already emphasise it should only be a stop-gap used in high risk scenarios, and not routinely.

“While some sectors have made longer term changes – we saw poultry meat companies stop prophylactic (preventive) use of all antibiotics in 2016 – RUMA recognises that preventive treatment will sometimes be needed on a temporary basis while vet and farmer make improvements to biosecurity and animal husbandry,” he said.

“Furthermore, use of critically important antibiotics, as defined by the EMA, has been voluntarily restricted by the poultry, pig and now cattle sectors. An example is colistin, a drug of last resort for treatment of resistant E. Coli infections, which now has minimal use in the UK at a level some 10 times lower than the European limit.”

Mr Jones said the UK was already well on the way to achieving the target set by Government to reduce antibiotic use by almost 20% by 2018; the 10% reduction in the latest available sales figures for food-producing animals underlined this. Sector-specific goals were also being developed through RUMA’s specially-set up Targets Task Force, due to define meaningful objectives for the main livestock sectors by the end of 2017.

He said: “Collection of usage data has been taking place for over five years in the poultry meat sector and is increasing rapidly in the pig sector; collecting records in the sheep and cattle sectors is more challenging due to the large number of smaller producers and current stand-alone data recording, but several solutions are actively being investigated in a multi-stakeholder group that includes the regulator.

“As well as this, huge steps are being taken in terms of biosecurity, disease control and disease prevention. This reflects RUMA’s responsible use guidelines and meets the report’s objective that farming practices which prevent the introduction and spread of disease into farms should be developed.

“In the UK’s case, this is mostly through innovations which allow us to protect the diversity we need in our farm production systems to meet our wide range of consumer preferences.”

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British cattle vets recommend voluntary clampdown on antibiotic use

Recommendations to clamp down on use of critically important antibiotics (CIAs) when treating cattle and avoid preventative use where possible have been issued by the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA).

The move comes as the whole agriculture industry, co-ordinated by agricultural and food industry alliance RUMA which promotes responsible use of medicines in farming, looks to build on the recent 10% reduction in use of antibiotics to treat farm animals.

The BCVA’s Dr Elizabeth Berry, who prepared the recommendations, said that whilst the responsible use of antibiotics has been promoted for many years across farming sectors, there is still the potential to reduce use in some areas and to move away from products which are important for human health.

She said: “This is an official position from BCVA to our members but we would like to see all in the cattle sectors embrace these recommendations in the understanding that we need to play our part in increasing responsible use of antibiotics.

“Work still needs to be done to establish the levels currently being used in cattle so that appropriate targets can be set but there are measures that can immediately be adopted.

“So we are recommending reducing both the overall amount of antibiotics used in cattle practice and minimising the use of the high priority CIAs – namely third and fourth generation cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and colistin. These drugs should only be used where they have been demonstrated by sensitivity testing to be the only suitable choice to avoid unnecessary suffering.”

BCVA, which has over 1,100 practising members covering around 85% of vets working with cattle, is also recommending that use of antibiotics as a preventative treatment is avoided wherever possible as long as animal welfare is not compromised.

“Where preventative treatment – or prophylaxis – is used it should be regarded as an interim measure whilst alternative management or vaccination strategies are implemented,” adds Dr Berry

“For example, all cows which comply with recommendations for using an internal teat sealant should be considered for non-antibiotic treatments at drying off.”

BCVA continues to advise that every farm should have a herd health plan which embraces all of the disease control strategies appropriate for disease reduction on that farm. In addition, farm management best practice should be followed, such as the guidelines issued by Red Tractor farm assurance.

Dr Berry says BCVA further recommends that all herds should establish their BVD status and eradicate the disease where it is found. “BVD can have a detrimental effect on incidence of many diseases and its eradication will have a significant impact on the need for antimicrobial use.

“We also continue to recommend the use of diagnostics to identify disease so that appropriate treatments can be selected and vaccination programmes instituted to prevent or reduce the severity of disease.”

BCVA’s confirmation of its official position has been welcomed by RUMA. Secretary General John FitzGerald says that while RUMA’s promotion of responsible use over the past 20 years means the UK remains among the lower users of antibiotics in farming in Europe1, more needs to be done.

“The BCVA’s position is clear and leaves no doubt that action needs to be taken,” says Mr FitzGerald. “It is underpinned by science, recognising that banning preventative use outright or access to critically important antibiotics is not an answer. Both are important tools in fighting disease and preventing suffering so we still need them – but we need to use them more strategically and only when no other options exist.”

The complete list of guidelines can be downloaded from the BCVA website www.bcva.eu.

Food and farming industry triples support for collaborative action on antibiotics

Funding for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance has more than tripled this year in support of a new business plan which will help UK farming play its part in the global drive to reduce antibiotic use across animal and human medicine.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones has welcomed the increase in funding, which will take the form of increased subscriptions from RUMA members. He says it is indicative of the industry’s deepening commitment to work alongside the human medical community in reducing, refining and replacing use of antibiotics globally – as well as building on the successful 10% reduction in UK farm animal use in 20151.

Mr Jones says: “RUMA’s new five-year plan is focused on leadership, supporting and co-ordinating sector-led reductions in the use of antibiotics, inspiring greater levels of responsible use among farmers, and increasing awareness among policy-makers and the general public of the facts as well as challenges and achievements.

“While stewarding use of antibiotics in human medicine to reduce the risk from resistant bacteria is a pressing priority2, farming has an important role to play in reducing risk of resistance developing through the food chain.”

Mr Jones says the biggest challenge facing farming is how to reduce animal treatment with antibiotics without compromising welfare. “A well thought-out, science-based approach that improves natural immunity, reduces disease burden and finds different ways to manage infection is essential to protect the well-being of animals. There is no silver bullet – it’s about small incremental changes that are carefully tried and tested before implementation.”

The RUMA Alliance, which is 20 years old this year, is widely credited with defining the current best-practice standards which have seen the UK’s way to being among the lower users of antibiotics on-farm in Europe3. The independent Alliance has also been the ‘pioneer’ initiative globally, sharing best practice with countries such as Ireland and Canada, as well as the model for EPRUMA – the European Platform for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Animals.

RUMA has already ramped up activities in anticipation of increased funding, including the creation of a Targets Task Force in December that will co-ordinate the different farming sectors as they identify meaningful objectives for refining their use of antibiotics. It has recently launched the www.farmantibiotics.org information website and convened the first meeting of its advisory Scientific Group this month (January).

The Alliance has also recently welcomed the British Meat Processors’ Association and the British Trout Association as members, meaning it now spans all sectors from game to poultry, fish, cattle, sheep and pigs, and all levels of the supply chain from organisations that supply farmers through to retailers.

“The commitment to achieving change in how antibiotics are used is now universal throughout food and farming,” says Mr Jones. “While not every member will agree every aspect, they all recognise the importance of collaboration and UK farming’s potential contribution in helping to address this world-wide human and animal health issue.”

Read RUMA Business Plan 2017 here.

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