Archive for the ‘RUMA News’ Category

Farm antibiotics task force refreshed in preparation for new targets

A task force set up by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance in 2016 to identify targets for antibiotic use in UK farm livestock has been refreshed, and convened in a kick-off meeting to start defining new goals post-2020.

With each sector now on track to meet most of the targets set by the original Targets Task Force in time for the 2020 deadline, attention is turning to the aims for UK farmers and their veterinary surgeons beyond that point.

Chris Lloyd, secretary general of RUMA, says that many of the ‘easier battles’ on reducing antibiotic use have now been won, making the next phase of target-setting more complex but just as important.

“With some sectors now at, or fast approaching, lowest potential use without risking animal health and welfare or food safety, I think we will see far more focus on ways to demonstrate the quality of management, and the health and welfare of the animal,” says Mr Lloyd.

He adds that new iteration of the Targets Task Force has 10 livestock groups rather than the eight in the last initiative. “Calves have been introduced as a particular area of interest because of the way they span the dairy and beef sectors, and the fish sector has been split into salmon and trout species.”

The first meeting took place on 10 September, and the group is due to meet next in February 2020 to gauge progress. As before, the British Veterinary Association, Food Standards Agency, National Office for Animal Health, Red Tractor and Veterinary Medicines Directorate will be observers, with levy board AHDB also joining this time. The new post-2020 targets will be agreed and reported before the end of next year.

The new Targets Task Force comprises:

  • Beef: Mark Jelley (producer), Elizabeth Berry (vet)
  • Dairy: Paul Tompkins (producer), Elizabeth Berry (vet)
  • Calves: Hannah Dyke (producer), Richard Cooper (vet)
  • Pigs: Richard Lister (producer), Richard Pearson (vet)
  • Sheep: Charles Sercombe (producer); Fiona Lovatt (vet)
  • Salmon: Iain Berrill (representing producers), members of the Salmon Prescribing Group (vets)
  • Trout: Oliver Robinson (producer), Peter Scott (vet)
  • Gamebirds: Paul Jeavons (producer), Will Ingham & Isy Manning (vets)
  • Poultry meat: Tom Wornham (producer), Daniel Parker (vet)
  • Laying hens: Paul McMullin (vet)
  • Observers: Clive Brown (AHDB), James Russell (BVA), Paul Cook (FSA), Donal Murphy (NOAH), Georgina Crayford (Red Tractor) and Fraser Broadfoot (VMD).

The original Targets Task Force was formed in 2016 in the wake of the Government-commissioned O’Neill Review on antimicrobial resistance, and went on to successfully define sector-specific targets which were announced at the end of 2017.

The wholesale industry engagement with these voluntary targets and the collaborative nature of the way Government and industry have worked together is unique globally, and has attracted interest from a number of other countries as well as from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety DG Sante.

The Targets Task Force initiative also won the hotly contested Prescribing and Stewardship category at Public Health England’s Antibiotic Guardian Awards in 2018.


Last call for Early Bird tickets for RUMA conference

With the final programme for RUMA’s third biennial conference on 29 October now published, it has been confirmed that early bird ticket sales at the discounted rate of £175 will close at midnight 30 September. From 1 October, tickets will revert to the full £200 price.

Using the theme ‘Building on Success’, the conference will examine whether recent progress in stewarding antibiotics can be maintained, and what needs to be done to better support global efforts to battle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The role of media and public opinion in achieving positive change will also be discussed, and whether UK farming’s animal health and welfare and food safety are robust enough to take advantage of opportunities as well as address upcoming market challenges.

Headlining the event will be American journalist and author on public and global health and food policy Maryn McKenna, who will be dissecting the role of the public and media in driving change in medicine stewardship.

A senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Human Health at Emory University, Ms McKenna is the author of the books Big Chicken (published in the UK under the title Plucked), Superbug, and Beating Back the Devil. She is a columnist for WIRED and a journalist for magazines including National Geographic, The New Republic and the New York Times, and her work critically examines antibiotic use in agriculture.

The Food Standards Agency will be represented at a RUMA conference for the first time, with its chair Heather Hancock opening proceedings by outlining the regulator’s vision for safe, healthy food built on farm systems which are modern, productive and demonstrate responsible use of medicines.

As at the last conference, the latest antibiotic sales data for farm animals are expected to be released by the Veterinary Medicine Directorate’s (VMD) head of Antimicrobial Resistance Dr Kitty Healey; she will also provide recent surveillance findings for antibiotic-resistance genes within farm animals and their food products, and will discuss how the industry can maintain progress and lead the world in responsible use.

While antibiotic use and AMR remain key themes in the event, broader aspects of farm animal health and welfare, emerging resistance in other pathogens and wider challenges presented by disease will be debated. Behaviour change among farmers and their veterinary surgeons, and the economic and reputational opportunities of better health and food safety will be covered as part of this.

To provide insight in these areas, the following have also been confirmed as speakers:

  • Stuart Roberts, NFU
  • Dr Shabbir Simjee, RUMA Independent Scientific Group
  • Duncan Sinclair, British Retail Consortium
  • Aarti Ramachandran, FAIRR
  • Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, Moredun Research Institute.
  • Dr Simon Doherty, British Veterinary Association

Dr Christine Middlemiss, the chief veterinary officer, will be concluding the event with a summary of the learnings from the day and a call to action for the next two years.

Tickets for the RUMA conference can be purchased via Eventbrite, with places limited. Please click on this link for the RUMA Conference Programme 2019 FINAL.


British poultry maintains low antibiotic use in 2018

RUMA has welcomed the publishing of 2018 antibiotic usage data collected through the British Poultry Stewardship programme. Despite increased disease challenges during 2018, the British poultry meat industry was able to maintain antibiotic use at low levels with just 12mg/kg required in the broiler meat sector, 47mg/kg used for turkeys and less than 2mg/kg for ducks.

Overall this meant that the amount of antibiotics used by the industry increased slightly from 14.4 tonnes to 16.2 tonnes, nonetheless representing an 80% reduction in total use since 2012, and an 83% reduction in use of highest-priority critically-important antibiotics.

Gwyn Jones, chairman of RUMA, said that the UK poultry meat industry was continuing to show leadership in antibiotics stewardship by maintaining low usage levels in a difficult year. “The challenge for all sectors will be as they reach their ‘terminal low’ in use. At this point, it is about responsibly maintaining low levels of use without compromising health and welfare or food safety in the face of emerging external challenges and disease.”

The report can be downloaded from the British Poultry Council website at

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