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ARB Adopts ‘Prudent’ Approach to Antibiotic Feeds

Animal Remedies Board Adopts ‘Prudent’ Approach to Antibiotic Use in Food Animals.

The Animal Remedies Board has adopted policy recommendations relating to the use of antibiotics as growth promotants and for prevention of disease in food animals in New Zealand.

The Board considered recommendations from its Antibiotic Resistance Steering Group which comprised representatives of consumer groups, livestock producers, veterinarians, the pharmaceutical industry, Animal Remedies Board, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Research Science and Technology and the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

There is concern in some quarters that the use of antibiotics in food animals – particularly as growth promotants or as prophylactics (i.e. for disease prevention rather than treatment) – could increase the risk of antibiotic resistance among people who eat the meat of those animals. The Steering Group noted that current information is limited, but research in the area of antibiotic resistance is daily adding clarification to the problem.

The Board agreed with the Steering Group’s view that there was a need for a full risk assessment of the possible connection between the use of antibiotics in food animals and human antibiotic resistances but that ‘…delays should not hinder prudent regulatory action in the meantime.’

The full policy decisions are attached.

Among the key points of the Board’s proposed policy was the need for integrated human and animal health information and the need for liaison and co-ordination among relevant agencies. It has recommended that a Ministerial inter-departmental committee including representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Health be set up to take a holistic view of the issue of antibiotic resistance.

The Board also endorsed the Steering Committee’s recommendations for new criteria in assessing applications to register antibiotics for growth promotant use and for prophylactic use. The guidelines outline issues that should be considered when assessing an application, including the implications for public health and animal welfare.

These criteria will be implemented as soon as practicable, and will be re-evaluated regularly in light of any new knowledge that becomes available.

The Board considered, among other antimicrobials, fluoroquinolones and avoparcin used for growth promotion or disease prevention in food animals. It has been advised that the fluoroquinolone product in question is likely to be voluntarily removed from the market and that future products are not likely to be able to meet the new criteria for licensing. (Avoparcin products will also be re-assessed and are not likely to meet the licensing criteria.)

However, the Board noted that, when considering whether to withdraw a product licence, thought must be given to ensure that a product that is essential for the health and welfare of animals is not inadvertently or precipitately withdrawn from the market. In Sweden, the withdrawal of antibiotic growth promotants resulted in a significant increase in mortality rate in pigs the following year.

The Board’s policy is open for public consultation until 10 December 1999. The Board will decide at its next meeting on 15 December 1999 whether its policy requires refinement as a result of submissions.

The policy, along with the recommendations and report of the Steering Committee and Expert Panel, are available on the MAF website (http://www.maf.govt.nz/ACVM/) or by contacting:

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