RUMA Task Force confirms targets timetable

The RUMA Targets Task Force has announced its timetable for publishing sector-specific targets relating to antibiotic use later this year.

The Task Force was set up by RUMA, the agricultural and food industry alliance which promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals, in December 2016 to identify meaningful objectives to reduce, refine or replace antibiotic use in all UK livestock sectors.

Having held a series of workshops over winter and spring, Task Force members are currently consulting with specialists and organisations within their sectors to finalise draft proposals by the end of June.

The regulator, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), will provide initial feedback on the proposals to confirm whether they would meet Government expectations for targets, timescales and rationale. It will also be important to have mechanisms in place to ensure animal health and welfare is not impacted by these measures, as set out in the Government’s response to the O’Neill report.

Once these responses have been received, each livestock sector has until the end of September to finalise their objectives, which will be compiled into a report for release at the RUMA conference on 27 October.

The Targets Task Force was originally proposed by RUMA after the O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance’s final report was published in May 20161.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones explains that while the UK Government response2 to the O’Neill report challenged UK agriculture to reduce average antibiotic use by around 20% to 50mg/kg by 2018 (compared with the 2014 usage figures of 62 mg/kg), Government wants the industry to develop its own sector-specific targets, asking for these to be confirmed by the end of 2017.

“The challenge in every sector is very different according to structure, number of producers and the way it engages with the market,” says Mr Jones. “Some have already made significant strides in reducing and refining use, others have further to go. But the Government is clear that every sector is expected to act and have a set of measureable objectives in place by the end of the year.

“There are encouraging signs of engagement and progress. Antibiotic sales data for food producing animals showed a 10% reduction between 2014 and 20153, and the pig sector has recently announced a halving of in-feed antibiotics for young pigs and a 70% reduction in colistin use. We hope further reductions and refinements in other sectors will be evident when the 2016 sales data are released by the VMD later in the year.

“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.”

Mr Jones says the benefit of the Targets Task Force became apparent at the very 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.”

Tickets for the RUMA conference are now available on Eventbrite and the event programme will be confirmed shortly.


1] The O’Neill report: Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally can be downloaded here
2] Antimicrobial resistance review: Government response.
3] VARSS Report (2016). UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance 2015.