New OIE report reveals very high levels of farm antibiotic use in Asia, Far East and Oceania

A new report [1] by the World Organization for Animal Health has revealed that in Asia, the Far East and Oceania, farm antibiotic sales per livestock unit are nearly four times higher than in Europe. Sales in the Americas were 25% higher than in Europe, whereas in Africa they were 40% lower than in Europe.

Cóilín Nunan of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics said: “These OIE statistics are only very rough continent-wide estimates and probably hide far greater differences at the country level. Unfortunately the OIE refuses to publish country-level data, which would expose the true levels of overuse.

The European Medicines Agency does publish data by country [2], so we know that the highest European users, Cyprus and Spain, are using 70 to 100 times more antibiotics per livestock unit than the lowest users, Iceland and Norway. Worldwide differences in usage are probably even larger than this, suggesting huge levels of overuse in some countries. As meat is traded globally, this is relevant to consumers in the UK.”

The OIE report also showed that 45 countries, mainly in the Americas, Asia, the Far East, Oceania and Africa, still permit antibiotics to be used as growth promoters. In total, 110 countries did not use antibiotics as growth promoters.

The European Union banned growth promotion in 2006, and in January 2022 it will become the first major bloc of countries to also ban preventative use in groups of animals [3].

Nunan said: “Unfortunately, the British government is refusing to commit to implementing the European ban on preventative mass medication, preferring to rely on voluntary industry action. The government also wants to agree new trade deals with countries like the United States and China that use far higher quantities of antibiotics per animal than the UK. If these trade deals set low minimum regulatory standards, they may end up undermining the progress that British farmers have made in reducing their antibiotic use.”

Notes to Editors