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RCP joins call for EU ban on routine antibiotic use in farming

The Royal College of Physicians' (RCP's) president Professor Jane Dacre has joined 50 health and scientific leaders from across Europe including Baroness Hollins (chair, British Medical Association Board of Science) and Dr Jeremy Farrar (director, Wellcome Trust) in calling for an EU ban on the routine, preventative mass medication of healthy farm animals. 

The signatories have today published the following letter in The Telegraph newspaper:

SIR – The dangerous overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and the rise of antibiotic resistance are now firmly on the global agenda, but we need greater political action against the overuse of antibiotics in farming.

Farm animals account for almost two-thirds of all antibiotics used in 26 European countries. About 90 per cent of farm antibiotic use within Europe is for group treatments, often where the animals are entirely healthy.

Bacteria resistant to colistin, a last-resort antibiotic, have been found in farm animals and people in several European, Asian and African countries. This is the latest sign that current veterinary prescribing practices can’t continue.

The revision of the EU Veterinary Medicinal Products legislation provides an opportunity for progress towards more responsible use. The farmers’ unions of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden recently called on their governments to propose an EU ban on routine, purely preventative treatment of groups of animals where no disease has been diagnosed in any of the animals. We urge EU governments, the European Parliament and the European Commission to support and implement such a ban.

Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee will vote later this week on the proposed ban to routine prophylactic use of antibiotics in food producing animals via their feed or water.