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Prevent infection  –  Food animals

Set up a program

The main diseases that drives antibiotic use in the animal sector are common infectious endemic diseases such as mastitis, pneumonia and diarrhea. These diseases also cause decreased productivity. Thus, disease prevention is an important factor both to lower antibiotic use and to increase the productivity of the animal.

There is no universal best practice to prevent diseases in farm animals, as the measures have to be specific to the problems on the individual farm. A possible starting point is to do an analysis of the herd management, biosecurity and health situation of the farm. This will indicate what measures that will be valuable and applicable at the specific farm. In order to evaluate the health status of the heard it is good to establish a disease recording system. Ideally this should be based on both clinical observations within the herd and recording of lesions at slaughter. Data on weight gain, pregnancy results and farrowing rate are also valuable for evaluation of the health status of the herd.

After health status among animals has been improved, changes in how antibiotics are used can be introduced with retained animal health and productivity.


Improved biosecurity and herd management optimization have been shown to increase productivity parameters and decrease disease treatment incidence in farm animals. Despite this, biosecurity measures at farm level can be poorly implemented. Introduction and continous improvement of biosecurity measures is essential for a health oriented farming system.

What is biosecurity?

Biosecurity is the series of management steps taken to prevent the introduction of infectious agents into an animal herd or flock. It usually involves testing incoming animals, and some sort of quarantine or isolation for newly purchased or returning animals (external biosecurity). Biosecurity also includes measures to diminish the spread of an infectious agent that have reached a herd (internal biosecurity or biocontainment).

Prevention of foodborne zoonoses

Food is one of the potential routes of transmission of antibiotic resistance. Both zoonotic bacteria and the normal gut flora of the animal can carry resistance genes, and these bacteria can contaminate the meat during slaughter. Measures to reduce the risk of spreading antibiotic resistance via food are the same as for other food safety issues, and includes the whole food chain such as disease prevention at farm, and appropriate hygiene from farm to fork.

Guidelines on processes and methodology for risk analysis concerning foodborne antibiotic resistance related to non-human use of antimicrobial agents have been developed. These guidelines also provide advice on appropriate risk management activities to reduce such risk.

Resources below have been separated into the following tables:

  • Guidelines and standards. Reference documents/guidelines from international organizations.
  • Engage and assess
  • Plan, implement and evaluate

Selected Resources

Guidelines and standards

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.
Guide to good farming practices for animal production food safety Guidance for Competent Authorities assisting farmers and other stakeholders in keeping livestock to produce safe food. Spanish and French versions included.
Guidelines for Veterinary Personal Biosecurity Example guidelines from the Australian Veterinary Association for veterinarians and animal handlers on how to reduce the risk of contracting disease from animals (zoonotic disease) and prevent animal disease. Provides information on infection control and how to handle high risk situations for veterinary practices of all types. Also contains a model infection control plan.

Engage and assess

Resource Description
Building Coalitions for Containing Antimicrobial Resistance: A Guide Guide by SIAPS for how to identify key stakeholders, mobilize their support, formulate and implement a plan and subsequently evaluate outcomes. Provides templates and sample interview forms that can be adapted for different local contexts. The chapter “Mobilize support” details how to identify stakeholders, organize a working group, and define the key issues, and “Understand the local situation” describes tools and strategies for compiling, analyzing, and presenting information about the local antibiotic resistance situation. An older version is available in Spanish and French.
Community Toolbox, chapter 7: Encouraging Involvement in Community Work Guidance. The Community Toolbox aims to offer people engaged in local and community work a depository of tools and advice for building healthier communities. Chapter 7 for example covers: The importance to involve all people affected by the problem (section 7) and Identifying and analyzing stakeholders (section 8).
Biocheck.ugent Tool. Biocheck.ugent is a risk-based scoring tool to evaluate the quality of biosecurity of pig and poultry herds, developed by the Veterinary Epidemiology Unit of Ghent University. Pigs, poultry and cattle

Plan, implement and evaluate

Resource Description
Guidelines for Animal Disease Control (PDF 0,78 MB) Guidelines for identifying priorities, objectives and the desired goal during development and implementation of disease control programs. Highlights the importance of economic assessment of disease intervention options in the design of programs taking into consideration effectiveness, feasibility of implementation, as well as costs and benefits. The purpose is to provide a conceptual framework that can be adapted to a particular national and epidemiological context.
FarmBiosecurity Information, tools and manuals. Farm Biosecurity is a joint initiative of Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia. The webpage collects information about diseases affecting crops and animals, and provides tools and manuals on how producers can reduce the risks of diseases entering or spreading. Multiple animal species
EIP-AGRI Focus Group on Reducing antibiotics in pig farming: Final report Report from a focus group launched by the European Commission that identifies three main areas to focus on to reduce antibiotic use – improvement of animal health, providing specific alternatives to antibiotics and changing attitudes, and suggests further recommendations for action. Summary available in Spanish. Pigs
Community Toolbox, chapter 6, section 1: Developing a plan for communication Manual for how to develop a communication plan for good, consistent, clear communications both internally and externally.

More from "Food animals"

Australian Veterinary Association - AVA. Guidelines for Veterinary Personal Biosecurity [Internet]. Australian Veterinary Association; Available from:
World Organisation for animal health - OIE. Guidelines for Animal Disease Control [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2019 Aug 14]. Available from:
SIAPS. Building Coalitions for Containing Antimicrobial Resistance: A Guide. Submitted to the US Agency for International Development by the Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services Program. Arlington, VA: Management Sciences for Health. [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2018 Mar 14]. Available from:
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:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - FAO, World Organisation for animal health - OIE. Guide to good farming practices for animal production food safety - [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2016 Sep 23]. Available from:
the Veterinary Epidemiology Unit of Ghent University, Flemish Animal Health Organization. Biocheck [Internet]. [cited 2016 Aug 17]. Available from:
Wierup M. Principles and Strategies for the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases in Livestock and Wildlife. In: Ecosystem Health & Sustainable Agriculture, Book 2 [Internet]. The Baltic University Programme, Uppsala University; 2012. p. 380. 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:
European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI), European Commission. EIP-AGRI Focus Group on Reducing antibiotics in pig farming: Final report [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2016 Aug 17]. Available from:
Animal Health Australia, Plant Health Australia. Farm Biosecurity [Internet]. [cited 2016 Aug 17]. Available from:
Laanen M, Persoons D, Ribbens S, de Jong E, Callens B, Strubbe M, et al. Relationship between biosecurity and production/antimicrobial treatment characteristics in pig herds. Vet J [Internet]. 2013;198(2):508–12. Available from:
Work Group for Community Health and Development. Community Toolbox [Internet]. Community Toolbox. 2014 [cited 2014 Oct 14]. Available from: