Antibiotics debate rumbles on after Parliamentary hearing

THE use of antibiotics in agriculture was cast into the spotlight once again when MPs held a debate at Westminster.  

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith tabled an Early Day Motion in October 2012 arguing that antibiotics are overused in farming.

The British Poultry Council, a member of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, welcomed last week’s debate, saying it was important to discuss such an ‘important and complex’ issue.

BPC chief executive Peter Bradnock said: “We are pleased the Minister has publicly recognised and welcomed the industry’s voluntary ban on the use of cephalosporins in poultry production and the action on fluoroquinolones in day-old chicks.

“As reflected in the 2011 VMD report on antibiotics sales, antibiotic use on poultry farms is decreasing.”

The BPC said it promoted the responsible use of antibiotics for poultry according to strict veterinary assessment.

“BPC agrees with the Minister’s statement regarding the scientific consensus on veterinary use of antibiotics not being a significant driver for human multiresistant infections,” added Mr Bradnock.

Quoting from a brief prepared by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), the Health Minister Anna Soubry said: “There is no conclusive scientific evidence that food-producing animals form a reservoir of infection in the United Kingdom. Food is not considered to be a major source of infections resistant to antibiotics.”

The Soil Association, which has long campaigned for a cut in the use of antibiotics, disputed the claims.

Soil Association policy adviser Richard Young said: “The Government is factually incorrect and morally irresponsible to claim the evidence is inconclusive and then use this as an excuse for inaction.

“There is an international scientific consensus that farm animals form a major reservoir of antibiotic resistance in food poisoning bacteria and there is now overwhelming evidence that they also contribute significantly to a number of other serious resistant infections in humans, particularly those caused by non-food poisoning forms of E. coli.”

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