Criteria for Using Antibiotics in Food Production

Penicillin was discovered in the 1920s and is considered one of the most important discoveries of the millennium. It is used to kill or inhibit bacteria growth and is vital when used in the right way and the right place.

Overuse of antibiotics, however, can lead to bacteria developing a resistance and immunity. The medication simply seizes to have an effect. Overuse of antibiotics is currently a major problem. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health.

Search for Cheap Meat One of the Reasons

Two thirds of all antibiotics are given to animals in pursuit of cheaper meat. Once the bacteria have become resistant they can be transferred from humans to humans, from humans to animals, from animals to humans and from animals to animals.

Since animal husbandry accounts for the largest use of antibiotics, all actors along the food chain are responsible for minimizing the spread of antibiotic resistance in food-producing animals. Healthy animals and good hygiene form the foundation for minimizing the need for antibiotics in animal husbandry. Through preventive animal health care, comprehensive satisfactory animal environments, good management, appropriate animal material and feed, the risk of disease outbreak is reduced, which benefits both animal and public health.

List of Criteria for Reduced Use

Along with Axfood, Martin & Servera and some of Sweden’s leading experts on antibiotics and animal welfare, Axfoundation has developed a clear-cut list of criteria that buyers can furnish to suppliers regarding antibiotic use and animal welfare. We are working to disseminate these criteria within the Swedish food retail and service industries, and among national and international bodies and agencies in order to achieve a transformative change.

Our work has among other things led to a number of major food retailers in Sweden jointly developing and agreeing to a list of criteria to reduce the use of antibiotics. The list is comprised of four requirements:

  1. Antibiotics should not be used to promote growth.
  2. Antibiotics should only be used when prescribed by a veterinarian.
  3. Detailed documentation of the use of all antibiotics, including through feed and water, should be available. The responsible veterinarian should periodically review and sign the documentation.
  4. If antibiotics are recurringly used on all animals in a certain age category, the reasons for this must be documented, and a veterinarian investigation shall be conducted followed by the development of a plan of action to combat health problems.

These food retailers are also working to influence their suppliers and competitors to follow suit.

Inspiration on a National and Global Level

Axfoundation’s work has inspired several other important initiatives to reduce the use of antibiotics. In May 2016 WWF Sweden launched a consumer meat guide. Axfoundation’s antibiotics criteria form the basis of the selection criteria contained in the guide.

On a global level, the criteria have inspired the organization ReAct, which in the past ten years has worked globally with advocacy on antibiotic resistance. ReAct has developed a Toolbox for people wanting to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance. Axfoundation has contributed to a further development of the Toolbox to also include animal health, environment and agriculture. WHO has in turn adopted the Toolbox and spread it globally with the aim of it being implemented in national antibiotic policies—representing a major step forward.

Axfoundation engages in a continuous information and advocacy work on the threat of antibiotic resistance and possible solutions. Along with the EAT Initiative, we have through the Stockholm Food Forum conducted a number of seminars and talks focused on antibiotic resistance and food.

The Antibiotic Issue in the EU Parliament

In September 2016 we brought the issue to the EU during a seminar at the European Parliament, a springboard ahead of a UN meeting later that month. The seminar was organized in conjunction with the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats European Group (ALDE) and Fredrick Federley from the Swedish Center Party. The purpose was to show the different perspectives required to handle this complex issue.

Axfoundation continues its ongoing work with the antibiotic resistance issue. In the autumn of 2016 we will continue to develop our dialogue with both companies and government agencies.

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