BPC's 2018 Report Shows an 82% Reduction of Antibiotic use in UK Poultry

The use of antibiotics in UK poultry is down by 80% over the past 6 years.

The British Poultry Council (BPC) released its 2018 Antibiotic Stewardship Report. This report is really interesting as it's the BPC's way of communicating achievements made by the British poultry meat sector. Specifically it showcases the efforts towards responsible use of antibiotics to safeguard the efficacy of antibiotics across the supply chain.

The poultry meat sector became the first UK live­stock sector to pioneer collecting data and sharing it with the government.
In fact, the goal is to share antibiotic usage data with the Govern­ment’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). Each year the BPC publishes data in support of the the UK-Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (UK-VARSS) Report.

The research the BPC conducts monitors the usage of all antibiotic classes in the UK poultry meat industry. The data they collect is used to promote best practices throughout the supply chain. According to the Journal of the Institute of Food Science & Technology the BPC is

Working with animal and human health experts to develop a methodology for rapid on-farm diagnostics to increase speed of antibiotic sensitivity testing and to ensure early diagnosis. The aim is to use the diagnostic and sensitivity testing tools used in human medicine to better map bird health and welfare, evaluate the impact of disease control programmes and implement robust surveillance.

The BPC is also supporting scientific research into examining the link between antibiotic use and resistance in the poultry production chain, understanding patterns of transmission and tackling antimicrobial resistance.

Nearly a billion birds are reared for food every year in the UK, representing half the meat eaten in the country; poultry meat production has increased by 10% in the last six years (2012-2017). Since 2012, the British Poultry Council Antibiotic Stewardship programme has helped to deliver significant reductions in the overall use of antibiotics:

• 82% reduction in the total use of antibiotics in the last six years (2012-2017),

• 91% reduction in the use of Fluoroquinolones (a Critically Important Antimicrobial for human health) in the last six years (2012-2017),

• 39% reduction in net use of antibiotics in the last year,

• 60.44% reduction in overall antibiotic use in chickens, 59.57% in ducks and 80.90% in turkeys in the last three years.

• There has been a significant reduction across all classes of antibiotics used in the last two years, most notably, a 63.09% reduction in the use of tetracyclines and a 22.02% reduction in the use of amoxycillin.

According to BPC Chairman John Reed:

Poultry is half of the meat eaten in the UK and we use less than 9.7% of the total antibiotics licensed for food producing animals. We have successfully reduced our antibiotic use by 82% in the last six years and have stopped all preventative treatments as well as the use of colistin. The highest priority antibiotics that are critically important for humans are used only as a ‘last resort'.

The BPC claims that UK poultry farmers and veterinarians need antibiotics in their toolbox to preserve the health and welfare of the birds. It argues that responsible use of antibiotics is about more than reduction targets and that zero use is neither ethical nor sustainable as it goes against farmers’ duty to alleviate pain and suffering.

There are very notable supporters of the work being done by the BPC.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss said:

The achievements made by members of the BPC are remarkable. Continuously reviewing on-farm biosecurtity and disease management practices whilst ensuring prudent use of antibiotics is integral to the sustainability of British agriculture. The dedication and determination of BPC’s members to deliver responsible reductions in the use of antibiotics will help to protect and preserve the efficacy of antibiotics going forward.

Veterinary Medicines Directorate CEO, Professor Peter Borriello said:

The impressive reductions achieved demonstrate the commitment of BPC members to protect the health and welfare of British poultry whilst safeguarding human health. The BPC and its members have demonstrated what can be achieved with will, strong leadership and teamwork. This success puts the poultry sector at the vanguard globally on antibiotic stewardship.

It is striking to see how the BPC is taking ownership of their role in helping to correctly, and sustainably use antibiotics. There have recently been many organizations creating increased pressure and skepticism around the use of antibiotics.

Ultimately, if antibiotics are going to be used in food supplies, it is important that we monitor these food supplies and ensure their safety.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. Do you think food associations should take more responsibility in monitoring chemicals in our food supply?

Q2. Are you worried about the use of antibiotics in your food sources?

Q3. Have you ever purchased a food based on the lack of antibiotics in it?