Reducing the use of antimicrobial agents in animal husbandry

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) works with its European Union (EU) to recommend ways of reducing the need to use antimicrobial agents in animal husbandry. This work aims to limit the development of antimicrobial resistance.

In 2015 the European Commission requested a joint scientific opinion from EMA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on measures to reduce the need to use antimicrobial agents in animal husbandry in the EU, and the resulting impacts on food safety. 

EMA and EFSA published their joint opinion in January 2017 (also known as the 'RONAFA' opinion):

Recommendations

The opinion shows that there is a need for an integrated, multifaceted approach, which takes into account the local livestock production system and involves all stakeholders. 

EMA and EFSA recommended specific measures centred on the theme 'reduce, replace and rethink'. These include:

  • setting national targets for reducing antimicrobial consumption;
  • reducing the use of antimicrobials in animals to the minimum necessary and if possible, replacing them with alternative measures, such as vaccines, probiotics, prebiotics, bacteriophages and organic acids;
  • using critically important antimicrobials for human medicine in animals only as a last resort;
  • rethinking the livestock system by implementing farming practices that prevent the introduction and spread of disease.

The report could not quantify the impact of single reduction measures or alternatives to antimicrobials on levels of antimicrobial resistance in food-producing animals and food. 

It concluded that a general decrease in antimicrobial resistance in the bacteria in the animals and food products is reasonable to assume.

More information

EMA's work supports the European Commission's action plan against the rising threats from antimicrobial resistance

The mandate for the 'RONAFA' opinion can be consulted below: 

EMA has also provided advice on impacts of using antimicrobials in animals in partnership with other relevant EU bodies.

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