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 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.