Alliance welcomes British Poultry Council's recent announcements on antibiotic use

The Alliance welcomes the recent announcement by the British Poultry Council (BPC) that, during 2016, all BPC poultry companies stopped using antibiotics for prophylaxis and that all BPC chicken companies had ceased to use the fluoroquinolones antibiotics.

These developments were announced at the joint FSA antimicrobial resistance workshop, which was organised with the University of Southampton and Newcastle University, and took place on 25 November 2016.

At the event, the BPC stated that its members now only use antibiotics for therapeutic use (this includes group treatments when disease has been diagnosed in some of the birds within the flock). As BPC members represent around 90% of the British poultry industry, this announcement marks a significant positive change in antibiotic use in UK poultry - the first sector to commit to this measure.

The BPC also announced that during 2016, their chicken companies had stopped using the fluoroquinolones - antibiotics classified by the World Health Organisation as ‘critically important’ for humans, due to their importance for treating infections such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and E.coli.

The Alliance has long opposed the routine prophylactic mass medication of livestock with antibiotics, and has repeatedly called for a ban to such practices in the UK and across Europe. We support the continuation of one-off group treatments, when disease has been diagnosed in some animals within the group being treated (metaphylaxis).

For a number of years, the Alliance has also opposed use of the fluoroquinolones in veterinary medicine, due to fears that this is undermining their effectiveness in human medicine. Recent data on resistance rates in human infections, which are at record levels for Campylobacter in the UK and the EU, shows that these concerns have indeed been realised.

International advisory bodies are clear that most fluoroquinolone resistance in human Campylobacter and Salmonella infections is coming from farm-animal antibiotic use. Evidence for transmission of resistance from farm animals to humans is particularly strong in the case of fluoroquinolone use in poultry and Campylobacter. Despite this, fluoroquinolones continue to be licensed for mass medication of poultry in the UK and most of the EU.

The BPC had previously told the Alliance that it supported the continued availability of fluoroquinolones for mass medication of poultry, and opposed a ban on routine prophylactic mass medication. The Alliance is extremely pleased to hear that the BPC has revisited this position.

Read our briefing – why the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics in poultry must be banned