Antibiotic usage in poultry drops

The British Poultry Council’s (BPC) Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme yesterday published a report on its strategy for responsible use of antibiotics, revealing a decrease in the use of antibiotics.

It is the first UK livestock sector to launch a data collection system to record antibiotic usage, covering 90% of the production across chicken (meat), turkey and duck products.

The organisation is also the first to share its data with government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), which was published in the UK-Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance 2014 report.

“The BPC Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme has been notably successful in delivering a strategy for the responsible use of antibiotics,” said BPC chairman John Reed.

“We want to continue to be open and transparent and we are proud to be the first UK livestock sector to publish this level of information.”

The scheme was first established by the BPC in 2011 and brought together expertise from poultry producers and veterinarians. Since it began, the BPC Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme has noticed a downward trend in the use of antibiotics.

Between 2012 and 2015, poultry production increased by 5%, with UK poultry production accounting for 44% of total UK meat production.

Over the same period, total antibiotic usage by scheme members dropped by 44%.

“Through the formation of the BPC Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme, the sector has taken decisive action to develop a strategy to manage antibiotic use,” commented Reg Smith, chairman of the scheme.

“Our key focus is responsible use of antibiotics and, where possible, a reduction in the use of those antibiotics considered to be of most highly critical importance by the World Health Organization (WHO). We recognise the importance of protecting the integrity of these antimicrobial classes for both animal and human health.”

Over the past few years, the programme has demonstrated its commitment to lessening the use of antibiotics. In 2012, it introduced a voluntary ban on the use of third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins (an antibiotic originally derived from a strain of fungus), as well as reducing the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics. Just this year, the scheme pledged not to use colistin.

The report indicated that each of the poultry meat species (chicken, ducks and turkeys) demonstrated an overall reduction in use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

The difference between poultry species and the different challenges that can affect bird health, with limited effective therapeutic treatments available, was also highlighted within the report.

To overcome obstacles, the BPC has called for more research to be conducted into novel antibiotics and effective therapeutic options.

“Responsible use is not simply a reduction in usage,” explained Daniel Parker, BPC veterinary adviser. “We use antibiotics to protect bird health and we will continue to work with government to explore alternatives. Until effective alternatives become available antibiotics will continue to be important in treating bacterial conditions in both human and animal medicine.”

Scheme members do not support the routine use of antibiotics. Instead, they have in place strict measures to ensure that where they are used, they are used responsibly and in line with the guidelines and principles outlined by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA).

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