A call for a UK ban on the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics in poultry production has been made by the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA).
The organisation has called on the UK’s minister of state for agriculture David Heath to ban the use of the drugs to help reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance in campylobacter and other infections.
According to ASOA, the ban would bring the UK into line with the US, where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stopped the use of the antibiotics in poultry in 2005.
A letter sent on behalf of ASOA to Heath said: “Since it is clear that voluntary action by the industry has been ineffective in reducing fluoroquinolone use, we now call upon you to work with the European Commission and other Member States to introduce new legislation to prohibit the use of these critically important antibiotics in poultry production, and ensure they are only used in other farm animal species in strictly controlled situations.
“We recognise this could result in a small increase in the retail price of chicken, but we believe that people would be willing to pay a little more to reduce the risks to their health and help safeguard the effectiveness of such an important class of antibiotics into the future.”
However, the British Poultry Council (BPC) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) said the poultry sector in the UK used antibiotics “prudently and responsibly” to ensure their availability and effectiveness in the future. While they both agreed with the overall objective of the ASOA, which was to promote responisble use, they said they did not want an outright ban on fluoroquinolones, as they were needed to treat specific illnesses.
The NFU and the BPC said: “Poultry veterinarians and farmers are aware of the importance of fluoroquinolones and certain other categories of antibiotics for use in human health. Only relatively small amounts of fluoroquinolones are now prescribed for poultry in the UK and rarely for flocks producing meat or eggs for consumption.
“The poultry industry is actively promoting antibiotic stewardship through continuous review of usage of all antibiotics in poultry flocks and their prescription only on the basis of a veterinary risk assessment of need and sensitivity testing to determine the effectiveness of the selected antibiotic. This reduces usage and ensures the most appropriate product is being prescribed.”
Around 350,000 people each year in the UK are affected by campylobactor, making it the most common form of food poisoning. Chicken is the source of more than half of those cases. The antibiotics have also beenbanned from use in poultry production by Denmark, Finland and Australia.
A recent EU report highlighted the need for urgent action and indicated, for the first time, the extent of fluoroquinolone use in poultry.
In 2008, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said: “A major source of human exposure to fluoroquinolone resistance via food appears to be poultry.” However, ASOA said that despite this, the use of fluoroquinolones in UK farming had increased by 70% in the last decade.