Parliament endorses plan to curb unnecessary antibiotic use

Data on antibiotic use on farm animals will be collected centrally and used to gain an EU-wide overview of the situation. [Ben Brophy/Flickr]

The European Parliament has approved draft legislation that will regulate antibiotic use in agriculture, as lawmakers look to address the increasing risk of antibiotic resistance. EURACTIV Germany reports.

It is not just the growing threat of antibiotic resistance that has prompted such a move, the negative environmental impact of veterinary drugs has also begun to appear on the political radar. There is also the matter of unpredictable side effects that may come from eating meat that has been treated with the drugs.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched its first global awareness campaign on better antibiotic use last autumn and this was the motive behind “World Antibiotic Awareness Week”, held in November, which sought to raise the issue of drug-resistance that is being observed around the world.

Antibiotic resistance looms as serious threat to health

Intestinal bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics have been detected in animals, humans and food in Germany. Experts fear future health problems if steps are not immediately taken. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The WHO and other health bodies have called for national action plans on antibiotic resistance to be launched. Germany’s DART 2020 programme is an example of such action being taken at a national level. Under the plan, certain farms are expected to submit biannual reports to supervisory authorities that detail how much livestock have been treated with antibiotics, how often and with what doses.

“Some farmers administer powerful medication to their livestock in lieu of proper animal welfare. But the large-scale use of antibiotics on animals accelerates the development of multi-resistant germs. Therefore, it’s about time that the use of the drugs on farm animals be decreased,” explained Susanne Melior (S&D group), a member of the Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).

Curbing unnecessary antibiotic use had already found its way onto the agenda of a meeting held between agricultural ministers earlier this year in Amsterdam.

Now, precautionary treatment using antibiotics is set to become illegal under the proposed law. Figures regarding the drug’s use will be collected centrally by the European Commission, so an overview of its use EU-wide can be monitored.

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Yesterday’s (10 March) endorsement by the Parliament of ENVI’s findings cleared the way for formal negotiations with the Council and Commission to be started, after which it will enter into force.

“We’ve laid the foundations for fewer antibiotics to end up on our dinner plates,” said Gesine Meißner, ALDE and FDP’s parliamentary spokesperson on health policy.

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