Defra has released an update to the UK 5-year action plan for antimicrobial resistance 2019 to 2024, in a document entitled Tackling antimicrobial resistance 2019 to 2024: addendum to the UK's 5-year national action plan, that appears to weaken a government commitment to match new EU rules on farm antibiotics with equally strict domestic legislation.
The original wording of the Action Plan gave a commitment, subject to consultation, to aligning UK laws on farm antibiotic use with the provisions of the new EU legislation, which the EU introduced on 28 January 2022. The new European rules ban all forms of routine antibiotic use in farming, including preventative group treatments.
However, the addendum appears to water down the wording of this pledge, replacing it with a commitment to 'Implement similar provisions on the use of antibiotics as those in the EU regulations'.
The Action Plan contained only one of many commitments given by the government to align UK antibiotics law with the EU legislation. In 2018, then Minister George Eustice stated in Parliament that the government planned to implement the European rules on preventative farm antibiotic use. Despite this, no new legislation ending preventative group treatments has been introduced in the UK.
As a result, British rules on farm antibiotic use now diverge significantly from the EU’s. To unpack these differences, Cóilín Nunan, Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics scientific advisor, appeared on BBC Countryfile on the 6th of February this year to discuss the UK’s rules on farm antibiotic use and our divergence from EU legislation.
The government has said that it will publish its long-delayed plans for new UK veterinary medicines legislation, which would include changes in the law on farm antibiotics use, at some point during 2022, and that there will then be a public consultation. However, no specific timeline has been released and no further detail has been announced.
In light of this and the changes made to the Action plan in the Addendum, we will be writing to the government to ask for an update on their current plans for legislating to end routine antibiotic use.
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics continues to campaign for improved regulation of UK farm antibiotic use, a ban on all routine use of antibiotics and an end to all preventative use of antibiotics in groups of animals.