Share the article

Toolbox  –  Prevent infection

Food animals

Measures to prevent infections, such as biosecurity measures and use of vaccines, are among the most important tools to decrease antibiotic use in the animal sector without decreasing animal health, welfare and productivity. Also, infection prevention diminishes the risk for spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria between animals and between animals and humans.

To have basic routines for prevention and control of infectious diseases at farms, in veterinary practices and in other human – animal interactions is crucial to decrease antibiotic use as well as the risk for spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Accurate information about biosecurity measures and data showing the cost – benefits of different measures are important to increase farmers’ motivation to adopt biosecurity measures. Increasing number of reports demonstrate the economic benefit of applying disease prevention measures such as improved heard management, biosecurity and vaccination. These measures can also lead to substantial reduction in antibiotic use. In one study of pig farms, antibiotic use were decreased 52% from birth to slaughter.

Foodborne diseases

Infection prevention efforts are also important to reduce the spread of zoonotic diseases through the food chain. The global burden of foodborne diseases is considerable, and particularly affects persons living in low-income areas. Also antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread via food, and ensuring food safety is an important component of efforts to limit the spread and effects of antibiotic resistance. Food safety has often been low on the political agenda. However, due to the growing evidence on the negative health effects of foodborne diseases, it is likely that food safety issues will receive more attention in the future. Improving food security is highlighted as one of the priority areas of the United Nations “Sustainable Development Goals”, to be achieved in 2030.

Work to improve infection prevention

There are no universal best practices for disease prevention at animal farms, but there are a number of measures that can be taken to improve infection prevention and control and reduce antibiotic use. Set up a program and Interventions provides more information and tools to facilitate the work.

Selected Resources

Resource Description
CODEX ALIMENTARIUS International Food Standards: Antimicrobial Resistance Standards for the responsible use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals. The “Code of practice to minimize and contain antimicrobial resistance” (CAC/RCP 61-2005) describes the responsibilities for regulatory authorities, veterinary pharmaceutical industry, wholesalers, retailers, veterinarians and farmers. “Guidelines for Risk Analysis of Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance” (CAC/GL 77-2011) gives guidance on assessing the risk to human health from foodborne antibiotic resistant bacteria, and determining appropriate management strategies to control those risks. Available in English, French and Spanish.
Antibiotic resistance from the farm to the table Infographic from CDC that describe how antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread to humans via food and the consequences.
Antibiotic Use in Food Animals Poses Risk to Public Health Information page from PEW discussing current evidence on antibiotic use in food animals and the impact on health, with links to further scientific evidence.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - FAO, World Health Organization - WHO. CODEX ALIMENTARIUS International Food Standards - Antimicrobial Resistance [Internet]. FAO; WHO; [cited 2015 Nov 27]. Available from:
Pew Charitable Trusts - PEW. Antibiotic Use in Food Animals Poses Risk to Public Health [Internet]. [cited 2018 Nov 27]. Available from:
Postma M, Vanderhaeghen W, Sarrazin S, Maes D, Dewulf J. Reducing Antimicrobial Usage in Pig Production without Jeopardizing Production Parameters. Zoonoses Public Health [Internet]. 2016; Available from:
General Assembly Resolution 70/1. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - A/RES/70/1 [Internet]. New York, USA: United Nations; 2015. Available from:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC. Antibiotic Resistance from the Farm to the Table [Internet]. Available from:
Grace D. Food Safety in Low and Middle Income Countries. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2016 Jul 3];12(9):10490–507. Available from:
Sayers RG, Good M, Sayers GP. A survey of biosecurity-related practices, opinions and communications across dairy farm veterinarians and advisors. Vet J. 2014 May;200(2):261–9.
Rojo-Gimeno C, Postma M, Dewulf J, Hogeveen H, Lauwers L, Wauters E. Farm-economic analysis of reducing antimicrobial use whilst adopting improved management strategies on farrow-to-finish pig farms. Preventive Veterinary Medicine [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2016 Jul 5];129:74–87. Available from:
Laanen M, Maes D, Hendriksen C, Gelaude P, De Vliegher S, Rosseel Y, et al. Pig, cattle and poultry farmers with a known interest in research have comparable perspectives on disease prevention and on-farm biosecurity. Preventive Veterinary Medicine [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2016 Jul 1];115(1–2):1–9. Available from:
World Health Organization - WHO. WHO estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases [Internet]. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2015 [cited 2016 Feb 25]. Available from: