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Review calls for curb in drugs fed to livestock

The unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture must be reduced to stop the spread of drug-resistant infections, a government-commissioned review has concluded.

Curbs on the use of drugs in livestock production, in particular for preventative reasons, was one of ten recommendations made by the O’ Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, which set out in stark terms the rising threat of superbugs that could lead to millions of deaths every year.

The report stated that antimicrobial drugs are becoming less effective and the world is not developing enough new ones to keep up. It warned the global costs of inaction could be 10 million people dying every year by 2050, and a cumulative economic cost of around $100 trillion.

Much of the global use of antibiotics in agriculture is not for treating sick animals but either to prevent infections – often to compensate for poor farming practices – or to promote growth. The report noted that there is an increasingly strong consensus that unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals and agriculture is a significant concern for human health.

Globally, foodservice businesses are already responding to consumer demand for antibiotic free meat. Last year McDonald’s announced its intention to phase out all use of antibiotics considered critically important to human health, while Subway has announced plans to serve only antibiotic-free meat by 2025.