This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Call for tighter control over the use of antibiotics in farm animals

05 September 2016

A new study has revealed high levels of E.coli that is resistant to essential antibiotics for treating serious human E. coli infections on British supermarket chicken and pork which poses a threat to human health. 

In chicken meat 24% of samples tested positive for ESBL E. coli – a type of E. coli resistant to critically important cephalosporin antibiotics which are used for treating blood poisioning in humans. This is four times higher than was found during a similar study in 2015, in which just 6% of chicken tested positive for ESBL E. coli. 

The study, commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics and carried out by scientists at Cambridge University, is the first to examine UK-origin retail meat for resistance to a range of important antibiotics for treating E. coli infections. It found very high levels of resistance to two more highly important antibiotics. A total pf 51% of the E. coli from pork and poultry samples, for example, were resistant to the antibiotic trimethoprim, which is used to treat over half of lower urinary-tract infections. In addition, 19% of the E. coli were resistant to gentamicin, a very important human antibiotic used to treat more serious upper urinary-tract infections.

The study findings provide evidence that the overuse of antibiotics used to mass medicate livestock on British farms is likely to be undermining the treatment of E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in humans. Some of the antibiotics tested are used in greater quantities in livestock farming than in human medicine.

Emma Rose of the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics said: “These findings show the level of antibiotic resistance on retail meat to be worse than expected. Supermarkets must now publicly commit to polices which prohibit the routine mass-medication of groups of healthy animals, and take immediate steps to reduce farm use of the ‘Critically Important’ drugs.”

Dr Mark Holmes, from Cambridge University, who led the study said: “I’m concerned that insufficient resources are being put into the surveillance of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and retail meat. We don’t know if these levels are rising or falling in the absence of an effective monitoring system. These results highlight the need for improvements in antibiotic stewardship in veterinary medicine. While some progress has been made we must not be complacent as it may take many years before we see significant reductions in the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in farms.”

Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust said: "This study highlights a worrying trend towards rising resistance in E.coli on UK retail meat. E.coli in people is the greatest cause of deaths from sepsis, and poor antimicrobial stewardship in intensive farming is undoubtedly contributing to this trend. It's of paramount importance that we act decisively to reduce this immediate threat to human life."

The Alliance has raised the issue of farm-antibiotic use with all major retailers over the last few years, and has seen positive progress from Waitrose, who in 2015 stated that antibiotics would not be used for routine prophylaxis within its supply chains. In August 2016, Waitrose updated their policy to also state that they are working towards significant year on year reductions in usage of all antibiotics, and have pledged to end the use of all critically important antibiotics (CIAs) as soon as possible. In response to the testing, the Alliance is calling for similar action from all UK supermarkets to tackle the use of antibiotics in their supply chains, by banning the routine preventative mass-medication of groups of animals, and dramatically curbing farm-use of CIAs.


Print this page | E-mail this page

MOST VIEWED...


Article image Oil-free compressor breaks with tradition

Gardner Denver went back to the drawing board with the design for its new water cooled, oil-free compressor. The CompAir branded Ultima is said to offer improvements in energy efficiency of up to 12%, compared to a conventional two-stage machine. It also has a 37% smaller footprint. Full Story...

Article image Predicting the future of maintenance

Meeting the challenges facing the food processing sector today requires an increase in machine availability and a reduction in unscheduled downtimes and so it is important to look at techniques that can help to manage maintenance and maximise production reliability. Suzanne Gill finds out how advancing technologies and digitalisation of the plant floor might affect maintenance strategies for food processors.Full Story...

Finding the key to successful BRC audits

What role does refrigeration play in the supply chain?

Carlsberg breweries aim for zero carbon emissions by 2030