Progress on antibiotics continues, report shows

The latest RUMA Targets Task Force 2 (TTF2) progress report has been released, which summarises the third year of progress against the current set of antibiotic use targets which span 2021-2024.

RUMA Targets Report Cover

UK antibiotic sales for food-producing animals have reduced by 59% since 2014, to 25.7 mg/kg – the lowest sales to date, according to Ruma’s report. 

Sales of Highest Priority Important Antibiotics (HP-CIAs) in food-producing animals also remain very low at 0.12 mg/kg in 2022 and account for less than 0.5% of total sales.

The Ruma Targets Task Force (TTF) targets continue to be largely exceeded, met or on track, and where use has been needed to address disease outbreak, this has been isolated and done so in a responsible, effective and efficient manner, Ruma said. 

Ruma chair Catherine McLaughlin, commented: “UK agriculture is proud of its work to date on tackling AMR and, as we look ahead to the future, we will naturally start to see a shift in focus from reduction, to maintenance of the targets.

“It is important to highlight that zero use of antibiotics, be that across animal or human health, is neither viable nor responsible. People and animals do get sick at times even with the best health care and preventive plans in place, and antibiotics remain a key medicine in the treatment ‘toolbox’ to help people and animals recover.

“In those situations, antibiotics are rightfully needed and should be delivered under the mantra of ‘as little as possible, as much as necessary’. By only using antibiotics when truly needed, UK agriculture continues to play its role in tackling AMR and protecting the efficacy of these important medicines long into the future.”

Medicine Hub data 

Of particular note in this year’s report, is the inclusion of some early Medicine Hub data which gives an indication of antibiotic use in ruminants.

As ruminants are very complex compared to other sectors, Catherine said designing a centralised hub for collecting data was a significant undertaking. 

“What we are seeing however, in this early ‘snapshot of data’ from Medicine Hub, is confidence and reassurance of the low antibiotic use we expected, coupled with low to negligible HP-CIA use – a very positive story indeed,” she said.

“As data submission accelerates over the next couple of years, the data will become more robust, such that industry can set a national baseline of current performance and start to implement management strategies based on data and intelligence from Medicine Hub, within enterprise types.”

Challenges facing the livestock sector 

The Ruma report also acknowledges the challenges that have faced UK livestock sectors. Catherine explained: “There is still fallout from the global pandemic, the UK’s exit from the European Union, rising production costs, labour shortages, climate change, ongoing trade negotiations, avian influenza, supply chain issues, and we are now firmly in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis.

“Each one of these is a huge challenge but combined, it makes for a perfect storm.

“However, this has not deterred commitment to the TTF targets and the sectors we represent at Ruma Agriculture have a strength, determination, and resilience that we should all be incredibly proud of. A resilience that is reflected in the continued efforts and achievements that this latest RUMA TTF report presents.“

The RUMA TTF summary report covers 10 sectors across aquaculture, pigs, poultry and ruminants and provides the latest annual progress update in the second cycle of TTF goals across all UK livestock sectors for data collection, use of antibiotics, uptake of preventative measures such as vaccines and training, and the development of industry initiatives.

This second cycle builds on the successful implementation of the last targets released back in 2017 which helped to halve sales of antibiotics to treat UK farm animals.

Ruma is now in the early stages of planning for the next cycle of Ruma Targets, and discussions will commence soon to start shaping the future trajectory.

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