Swedish stock-farmers are those making the least use of antibiotics for food production, according to a report by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) spanning 25 European countries.
According to the report, Sweden uses 13.6 milligrams of antibiotics per kilogram of meat on average, fewer than any other EU country, followed by Finland (24 mg/kg), Latvia (35 mg/kg) and Lithuania (42 mg/kg).
Cypriot farmers come at the bottom of the list, using 408 mg antibiotics per kg of meat, a little more than Italian (370 mg/kg), Spanish (249 mg/kg) and German farmers (211 mg/kg).
Among European countries, Norwegian and Icelandic farmers (3.7 mg and 6.3 mg per kg, respectively) come on top as those who use the fewest antibiotics in food production.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said that when antimicrobial resistance occurs among animals and food, it can also compromise the effective treatment of infectious diseases in humans.
Petter Elstrøm of the Norwegian Public Health Institute told the Norwegian media Nationen that the low use of antibiotics in the Norwegian food production is a big advantage for public health, saying there is a direct link between the use of antibiotics in livestock and resistant bacteria in humans.
In many EU countries, almost half of the bacteria, such as staphylococcus aureus, have developed resistance to antibiotics, Elstrøm said.
"Agriculture in the EU is more industrialised and there's more movement of food and animals across the borders. The Norwegian agriculture policy decreases the risk of developing resistant bacteria and a small import of animals and food create less spread of resistant bacteria," Elstrøm explained.
Franck Berthe, the head of the EFSA's Animal Health and Welfare Unit, told EurActiv in an interview last November that 70% of infectious diseases in humans originate from animals.
The EU estimates that 25,000 deaths per year are directly linked to resistant bacteria, costing public health systems an estimated €1.5 billion, according the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Patients who have caught resistant bacteria have to be isolated when treated at the hospital. These extra resources cost €900 million and lead to 2.5 million extra bed days per year.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat. It happens when organisms are able to survive medicines aimed to destroy them.
Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, viruses to antivirals and parasites to drugs like antimalarials.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says 150,000 deaths are caused each year by multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates that AMR results each year in 25,000 deaths in Europe and related costs of over €1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses.
The situation is all the more serious because antimicrobials have become an essential tool for modern medicine. Many surgical operations could not be performed without them.
- European Medicines Agency (EMA): Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 25 EU/EEA countries in 2011
- European Commission: Public Health - Antimicrobial resistance
- Commission Communication: Action plan against the rising threats from Antimicrobial Resistance
- European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): Antimicrobial Resistance
- Nationen: Norway uses the least antibiotics in food production in Europe [In Norwegian]