Poultry industry pledges antibiotic cuts

UK producers have responded to the challenge of European food safety leaders and pledged to cut the use of antibiotics in poultry production.

The British Poultry Council said its members, as part of a commitment to continual improvement, have agreed to reduce the amount of antibiotics used.

John Reed, BPC chairman, said: “New scientific evidence on the threat of antimicrobial resistance is well documented and is being heeded by the poultry industry. We recognise the strength of the recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommendations and the challenge they represent and, as responsible stewards of veterinary medicine, we want to meet that challenge.”

BPC members have committed to stopping the use of all cephalosporins in the poultry meat production chain with effect from 1 January 2012 and stopping the prophylactic use of all quinolones for day-old chicks. They have also said they would review the use of all antimicrobials during production and work with government on options to survey ESBL/Amp-C prevalence in UK poultry.

In July the EFSA Scientific Opinion on ESBLs and Amp-C in animals and food from animals recommended stopping or restricting use of third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins in food-producing animals, and giving a high priority to reducing overall antimicrobial use in food-producing animals because co-resistance is an important factor in the selection of ESBL/Amp-C carrying bacteria.  

November saw the EU Commission publish an action plan against the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance, setting out 12 key actions in a five-year plan aimed at human and animal use of antimicrobials.

Livestock production as a whole has seen a spread of ESBL/Amp-C organisms that confer resistance or destroy second-, third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins, a class of antibiotics considered critical for human health.

Reed added: “As a crucial and responsible part of the food supply chain for this country, we have seen a need and taken action. We will continue to review our use of antibiotics and take further action based on scientific evidence.”

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