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Reducing antibiotics in 8 European countries

While clear European legislation is yet to be developed, several member states have made serious steps to further reduce antibiotic usage on pig farms. Highlighted here are 8 countries which are working towards creating a policy to encourage the reduction of therapeutic use of antibiotics.

What exactly is happening with therapeutic antibiotics in Europe’s pig industry? Are they banned? Are they still allowed? These kinds of questions are asked frequently but are among the most complex to answer in 2015.

Therapeutic overusage penalised

The best answer is that in two countries, therapeutic over-usage is being penalised, in four more countries intensive monitoring programmes have been set up to help producers and vets achieve reduction of therapeutic antibiotics and in at least one more, a similar approach is being strongly discussed and studied.

Different situation

A long answer – and it is not without a reason. It is a different situation than in 2006, when one European Union (EU) directive banned the usage of Antibiotic Growth Promoters (AGPs) in food animals. Repeating this trick now is not feasible, simply because therapeutic usage of antibiotics cannot be banned altogether. Therapeutic usage of antibiotics will always have to remain a tool, which veterinarians should be able to rely on – not using them at all would compromise animal welfare unnecessarily.

More awareness and better biosecurity

Therefore ‘reducing’ or ‘limiting’ usage is the alternative. With more awareness, better biosecurity, herd health and targeting heavy users, indeed reductions can be achieved. For that reason, pork producers have to be reached, have to be convinced and have to be taught the value of benchmarking antibiotic usage. In several countries, monitoring systems have been developed as online tools to help producers gain a better insight.


In Denmark and the Netherlands, the two countries where a penalty awaits those producers failing to produce below certain thresholds, excessive use has been made quantifiable. Terms as ‘Defined Daily Dose Animal’ and ‘Average Daily Dose’ have therefore seen the light. They are specific for each country, designed for that country’s pig infrastructure, and hence comparison is virtually impossible, although attempts have been made to bring more unification in this process.

What role does the EU play?

First of all, new legislation proposals on medicated feed have been announced. In addition, the European Medicines Agency has launched the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) project, which aims to harmonise approaches for collection and reporting of data with regard to European usage. In 2011, it launched a five-year, 12-point plan to fight antimicrobial resistance. Point 1 of this plan: Strengthen the promotion of appropriate use of antimicrobials in all member states.

So the question is – at what stage is everybody? This overview does not aim to be complete – but hopefully it does give a little bit of insight as to which roads some of the main players in the European pig industry have taken.


  • peter mckenzie

    If veterinarians can only prescribe and not dispense the profit from sale of antibiotics is no longer  a driver for antibiotic use

  • J Lindahl

    It is right tat th swedish producers has to folow a mandatory cours to get the oppertunity to handle medicin. Actually, all who works in the farms and do handle medicine has to go this course. But it is no right that they are teached which medicin that are to be used for different diseases. It is solely the veterinarians responsebility to handle that part, descriping the single diseases and the treatment chosen to treat it. This information is given to the farmer and the authorities when a farmer starts to use medicine him self, and it has to be renewed once a year so nformation about drug usage and the people on the farm hwo are allowed to use medicine is updated. The low consumption of antibiotics in Sweden is mainly caused by are very low use of in water and in feed treatments. Diarhoea in weaners, where we havethe higest usage in most countries, are controlled by higher weaning age, strict all in/all out production and lower protein in the feed.

  • J Lindahl

    Concerning the comment from Peter mckenzie, the veterinarians in both Sweden and Denmark are only allowed to prescribe medicin, and not allowed to sell it themselfes or have any interrests directly or indiderctly in companies who provides medicine to the farmers.

  • Vincent ter Beek

    Thank you for your comments, very useful!

  • Rainer, Dr. Burgemeister

    It is an often told fary tale, that vets perscribe more antibiotics, because they
    profit by this. The price for the farmers is quite high enouph, and the income
    for them on a pig is lousy, so they demand themselves not to use antibiotics
    without need. I am astonished, that this tale is still going around.

  • Mick Adams

    Less antibiotic leads to a healthier meat, but It's farmers who must make an effort in that direction for better <a href="">epicerie</a> product

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