Antibiotics (Intensive Farms)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:42 pm on 9th January 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park 4:42 pm, 9th January 2013

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I suspect that that is part of the problem, but as I will come to later, I think it is also the case that the agribusiness sector in this country has had a disproportionate impact on policy. That is a point that I hope to impress during the debate.

As I was saying, there has been a near clean sweep of Ministers at both Departments, so this debate provides an opportunity to clarify Government policy. The Government are right to insist on better infection control in hospitals and changes in the way that antibiotics are prescribed by doctors. However, other than the brief answer that I quoted from the former Secretary of State, there has been virtually nothing from the Government that could in any way encourage vets and farmers to be similarly prudent. Not surprisingly, therefore, there has been little progress; on the contrary, analysis by the Soil Association of the Government’s statistics indicates that the overall use of antibiotics per animal on UK farms increased by 18% between 2000 and 2010, while the farm use of third and fourth-generation cephalosporins—drugs described by the Health Protection Agency as hospital workhorses—increased by over 500%.

Furthermore, recently published data from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate show that sales of fluoroquinolone antibiotics for use in veterinary medicine over the past two years have been 70% higher than they were in 2000. It is worth noting that when fluoroquinolones were first licensed for use in poultry in the UK in 1993, there was no registered antibiotic-resistant campylobacter in people who had not been treated with the antibiotics, but by 2007, almost half—46%—the campylobacter food poisoning cases caused by the most common strain were resistant. It is worth noting also that in 2008, the European Food Safety Authority said:

“A major source of human exposure to fluoroquinolone resistance via food appears to be poultry”.

Clearly, antimicrobials should be used to treat sick animals, and I do not think anyone would argue against that.