RUMA response to publication of new WHO guidelines 7 November

In response to the publication today of the WHO Guidelines on Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals, Gwyn Jones, RUMA chairman, says:

“The guidelines are largely consistent with UK farming’s direction of travel. A clear strategy in the UK has produced rapid reductions of 27% in sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals within two years and significant falls in sales of highest priority antibiotics, meaning a major government target has been exceeded two years early. A new and demanding set of targets for each of the key livestock sectors will ensure momentum continues.

“But the WHO Guidelines also expose some important differences between the global and the European – and specifically the UK – position. For example: antibiotics are controlled by prescription in the UK and use for growth promotion was banned over 10 years ago; UK government and RUMA follow the European Medicines Agency – not WHO – guidelines on CIA definitions because they identify the degree of risk to human health should antimicrobial resistance develop after use in animals; and the UK, with its high regard for animal welfare, observes a ‘One Health’ approach focused on the best outcomes for people, animals, and the environment.

“We know some practices in veterinary medicine, as in human medicine, cannot continue. But we also recognise that time, investment and support are needed to make long-term sustainable changes without harming animal welfare. This means the WHO guidelines, especially based on what the WHO admits is low or very low quality evidence, are neither compatible with the UK farming industry’s priorities, nor necessary given recent progress.”