Antibiotic use in poultry on the rise

Reported use of the antibiotic fluoroquinolones has increased in the UK, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 

Industry figures obtained by the Bureau found that UK poultry producers increased usage of fluoroquinolones by 59% in the latest 12-month reporting period.

The antibiotic was banned in the US a decade ago amid fears that it could be fuelling resistant forms of food bugs such as campylobacter, salmonella and Ecoli. The increase suggests it is likely that at least 20 million more chickens were given a dose of the antibiotic in 2014.

The revelation has led to calls for a review of the way in which antibiotic use on UK farms is regulated. Currently, UK farmers are required to retain records of antibiotics administered to livestock however this data is not currently collated by the industry regulator, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

Coílín Nunan, scientific adviser at the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said: “The government should ban all use of fluoroquinolones in poultry because we know resistance is transferring from chickens to humans. This is why the US banned fluoroquinolone use in poultry a decade ago.”

A spokeswoman for the British Poultry Council said use of antibiotics in total in the poultry meat industry had declined by 30% in 2013-14.

“The BPC and its members recognise the importance of fluoroquinolones for human medicine, and we will continue to work with our members to significantly reduce the usage of all classes of antibiotics including the fluoroquinolones.”

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