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Head in sand approach to superbug a public threat

Head in sand approach to superbug a public health threat

Green Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said the new Food Safety Agency's response to the possible link between the feeding of the antibiotic apramycin to food animals and the emergence of a new, deadly superbug in New Zealand was totally inadequate.

"It is head in sand stuff," Ms Kedgley said.

"The Ministry's Director of Agricultural Compounds suggests that because the antibiotic is only available under a prescription from a vet there is no need for a proactive strategy to reduce its use or for urgent testing on animals to establish whether the superbug's emergence is linked with the use of apramycin in agriculture.

"For years MAF has been insisting there is no link between the feeding of antibiotics to animals and the emergence of resistance in humans. Now that the link is emerging, it is continuing with its head in the sand stance, failing to take a proactive approach and essentially leaving it to an over-stretched and under-funded health system to cope with the consequences," said Ms Kedgley.

"Instead of leaving it up to the medical system to cope with this outbreak in hospitals, MAF and the new Ministry of Food Safety ought to be taking a lead role in carrying out tests on animals to see whether the strain of the bacterium, serratio marcescans, that is causing the superbug in humans is the same as the serratio bacterium found in animals.

"It should also be undertaking a review of the use of apramycin in animals, and taking urgent steps to eliminate its use on food animals such as pigs and chickens."

Ms Kedgley said the Food Agency acknowledges that it has known for some time that the use of apramycin in food animals might encourage resistance to human medicines.

"This begs the question, if they know this, why on earth are they allowing New Zealand producers to continue to feed the drug to animals?

"This new and deadly superbug has already killed two people and been found in 271 cases across the country," Ms Kedgley said.

"What will it take to get the Ministry to take the issue seriously and prohibit the feeding of antibiotics to animals that are known to encourage resistance in humans?"

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