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EU call to clamp down on livestock antibiotics

By Keith Nuthall , 12-Nov-2012
Last updated on 12-Nov-2012 at 11:11 GMT

A motion from the European Parliament’s health committee has called on the European Commission to introduce tough new controls, restricting the availability of new third- and fourth-generation antibiotics to the livestock sector.

Passed unanimously, the motion said meat industry antibiotics use was still too widespread and continued to promote immunity to antibiotics amongst bacteria that could cause seriously damaging health problems in humans.

It said the European Union (EU) executive should devise a legislative proposal “for the veterinary sector to limit the use of third- and fourth-generation [antibiotics] for humans” sponsoring the “prudent use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine”.

The motion attacked the “uncontrolled prophylactic use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry”, saying guidelines should insist these medicines are used only on sick livestock. Such advice should cut “non-essential and inappropriate exposure to antimicrobials in… veterinary medicine, livestock farming, agriculture…”.

To reduce demand for these drugs, the committee said the Commission should review EU animal welfare laws, especially stocking density rules. This would boost animal health without the use of drugs. It added EU laws should limit the right to prescribe antimicrobials to professionally qualified veterinarians. And also the rights to prescribe and sell antimicrobials should be given to different people “to eradicate economic incentives to prescribe”.

The motion was drafted by Danish conservative MEP Anna Rosbach who said later: “If we do not take measures to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR), it will threaten our ability to conduct what is now routine medical practice which relies on antimicrobials to protect patients from infection”. She added that more funding was required to develop new drugs for which immunity has not been spread by livestock prophylactic usage.

The motion will now be discussed by the European Parliament’s plenary session. If it is approved, the European Commission will have to propose the legislation suggested, or give a reasoned opinion why not.

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