The latest RUMA Targets Task Force 2 (TTF2) progress report has been released on Wednesday 1 November 2023, which summarises the third year of progress against the current set of antibiotic use targets which span from 2021 until 2024.
The report highlights where targets are already being achieved or sustained, and where challenges still remain.
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate’s (VMD) UK-Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance Sales Surveillance (2022) Report was also released, and shows that UK antibiotic sales for food-producing animals have reduced by 59 percent since 2014, to 25.7 mg/kg.
This represents the lowest sales to date.
Sales of Highest Priority Important Antibiotics (HP-CIAs) in food-producing animals remain at very low levels at 0.12 mg/kg in 2022 and account for less than 0.5 percent of total sales.
The RUMA TTF Report charts yet another positive year for UK agriculture in the responsible use of antibiotics.
The RUMA Targets Task Force (TTF) antibiotic use 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 the responsible, effective and efficient manner that the UK is known and recognised for.
Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) chair, Catherine McLaughlin, says: “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 antibiotic use 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.”
Of particular note in this year’s report, is the inclusion of some early Medicine Hub data which give an indication of antibiotic use in ruminants.
Catherine continues: “Ruminants are incredibly complex compared to other sectors and, designing a centralised hub to start collating data has been a significant undertaking.
“The work that has gone into its development should not be underestimated and, this is just the start of the journey from which confident baselines can then be produced.
“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.
“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.”
Abigail Seager, chief executive of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, says: “I’m encouraged by the 2022 figures presented in this year’s UK-VARSS report, showing a 59 percent reduction in sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals, since 2014.
“I congratulate the work vets and farmers are doing to achieve antibiotic use targets in each sector which is showcased in the latest RUMA Targets Task Force Report.
“All these results demonstrate how collaborative efforts between industry and government have led to antibiotic stewardship principles becoming embedded in veterinary practice and UK farming, to address the challenge of AMR.
“This work has been underpinned by a data-driven approach, allowing us to track progress and both celebrate successes and identify where we should focus our efforts.”
The RUMA TTF Report also acknowledges the challenges that have faced UK livestock sectors.
Catherine says: “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 antibiotic use 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.“
Catherine continues: “RUMA Agriculture prides itself on using evidence-based information to promote the industry’s responsible use of medicines; at times, this means speaking up proactively to address misinformation that may be in circulation, and we are proud to provide that voice when it is appropriate to do so.
“In line with that approach, another part of our work in 2022 saw us deliver a range of Sector in Focus campaigns to share the antibiotic stewardship stories of different sectors, charting the inception, delivery and impacts of stewardship initiatives, as well as understanding the challenges that have been faced and the solutions that have been developed.
“What is evident in all of these sector journeys is the ‘solutions focused’ mindset and data driven strategies which underpin each and every one – qualities which are at the heart of so much of the success the industry is seeing today.”
While 2022 outcomes form the foundation of this latest report, RUMA has also used the report launch to reflect on some more recent work in progress to help continue to evolve and strengthen antibiotic stewardship.
Catherine adds: “RUMA has this year (2023) been proud to respond to the Veterinary Medicines Regulations consultation, as well as feeding into the next UK 5-year action plan for antimicrobial resistance, which is currently in development.
“We are also in the early stages of starting to plan for the next cycle of RUMA Targets, and discussions will commence soon to start shaping the future trajectory. In addition, we have also commissioned a desktop report to help us develop our thinking about veterinary medicines and environmental stewardship.
“We are lucky that we live in a nation where we have trusted regulators; this ensures that even before veterinary medicines are authorised for use, robust checks have been undertaken which take into consideration minimising environmental impacts as well as many other factors.
“Even so, we are always looking for other opportunities to farm for a greener future and we will be sharing insights from this report in 2024.
“I also wanted to take a moment to reflect on why all this effort matters. For those of us who work within the veterinary and farming industries, we know only too well why tackling AMR is so vital.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. UK livestock sectors recognised over a decade ago the role they can play in responding to this threat.
“The mission is simple; everyone across the One Health infrastructure wants, and needs to keep antibiotics working, to protect human and animal health for the future. That is the driving force.
“Reduce, refine, replace remains a key foundation and, as we are starting to see now across agriculture, maintenance of low use will also start to become a key measure of success in the management of AMR.
“RUMA has never prioritised one farming system over another to promote the responsible use of medicines. Whichever system of farming is used, it is important that animals are well cared for, their needs are met, they are healthy and if veterinary intervention is needed to counter a health challenge, it is done in a responsible manner.
“This principle also supports consumers who have a right to access good quality, safe, nutritious food, at a range of price points.
“This inclusive viewpoint, allows the sharing of best practice across all farm management systems, a practise which has been instrumental in driving our Target Task Force successes and will continue to be used in RUMA’s activities.”
The RUMA TTF summary report covers ten 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.
To read and download the latest RUMA TTF report, and find out the progress against the current set of antibiotic use targets, visit their website.