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Measure  –  Appropriate use

Food animals

This section provides information and resources to measure prudent use of antibiotics in food animals. You can also access selected data sources and relevant reports.

In the food animal sector, the preferred term for appropriate use is responsible and prudent use. Antibiotics are used to treat diseases, prevent and control diseases and, in parts of the world, promote animal growth. Thus, part of the antibiotic use is for non-therapeutic purposes. Inappropriate or imprudent use of antibiotics increases the risk of development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, which in turn can lead to therapy failure, bringing negative consequences for animal welfare as well as economic losses

FAO/WHO and WOAH (founded as OIE) have developed guidelines that outline the responsibilities of different actors related to responsible and prudent use. Actors include competent authorities, pharmaceutical industry, distributors, veterinarians and food animal producers.

Evaluations on the appropriateness of antibiotic use in the animal sector may address the following:

  • Record keeping of antibiotic use at both farm level and individual veterinary level
  • Antibiotic use as growth promotors
  • Other non-therapeutic use, such as routine prevention during certain risk-periods (e.g. weaning of piglets)
  • Use of critically important antibiotics and under which indication
  • Are antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian?

The resources below have been divided into the following tables:

  • Tools and guidelines
  • Data and reports

See also related sections on Consumption and Knowledge and practices.

Selected Resources

Tools and guidelines

Resource Description
Guidelines for Infection Prevention and Appropriate Antimicrobial Use in the Animal Sector Guidelines developed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of the Republic of Uganda that includes a section for the appropriate record-keeping of antibiotic use at both farm and individual veterinary level. Example formats on record keeping are available for five livestock production systems: cattle farming, fish farming, goat and sheep farming, pig farming, and poultry farming.
Keeping veterinary medicine records Manual on how to keep veterinary medicine records. Includes an example format on record keeping (word document). Guidance for England, but can be used for inspiration/adapted for other contexts.
WOAH Terrestrial Animal Health Code Guidelines. Chapter 6.10: Responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicine.
The Veterinary Benchmark Indicator (VBI) Methodology from the Netherlands Veterinary Medicines Institute (SDa) on benchmarking usage of antibiotics on farms. The benchmarking classifies farms and veterinarians into “target, “signaling” and “action” zones. This page contains the original report (PDF,  0.8 MB) on the benchmarking and a report with revisions made to it (PDF, 2.2 MB). The annual reports contain the latest updates to the benchmarking thresholds.

Data and reports

Resources Description
Restricting the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals and its associations with antibiotic resistance in food-producing animals and human beings: a systematic review and meta-analysis Systematic review on the effect of interventions restricting antibiotic use in food animal production. Provides evidence that restricting use lowered the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the animals. The appendix lists all studies (2MB) included in the review and provides a quality assessment.
Reduction of Veterinary Antimicrobial Use in the Netherlands. The Dutch Success Model Journal article that describes and analyses the processes and actions behind the transition from abundant antimicrobial use in farm animals in the Netherlands towards a more prudent application of antimicrobials.
Effects of Banning the Use of Antibiotics as Growth Promoters in Denmark and Scandinavia (PDF) Reference collection. Document with links to major reports and journal articles describing the experiences in the Scandinavian countries of banning the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. See also fact sheet on Danish experience (The PEW Charitable Trusts).
Restrictions on antimicrobial use in food animal production: an international regulatory and economic survey Journal article comparing governmental policies on antimicrobial use in food animal production, showing that antibiotic use differs widely, from no restrictions to strict restrictions.

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