In our regular look at the work of Red Tractor, we ask about the important topic of antibiotic resistance in animal agriculture.

THE European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) published its tenth report in October.

It collects information on how antimicrobial medicines are used in animals across the EU. This type of information is essential to identify possible risk factors that could lead to the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance in animals.

The latest findings show that the UK is leading the way in fighting the rise of resistance – an issue that will have huge public health implications if left unchecked. Responsible use of antibiotics in animal medicines is down to farmers and their vets to put in to practice on farm. But food assurance schemes such as Red Tractor – which sets standards on how farmers record and administer medicines – has a huge role to play.

The responsible usage of medicines on farms is a huge success story. Resistance to some of the most widely-used antibiotics in humans and animals has been widely reported as one of the most serious threats to future human health. Red Tractor recognises that it – along with the whole food chain – has a key role to play and has taken steps which have contributed to a huge reduction in use of antibiotics in animal agriculture in the past six years.

It is these standards which will help British, farm-assured products stand out from the crowd post-Brexit when other food producing nations with lower standards will be looking to displace it. Indeed, the Trump administration has already slammed the British antibiotic success story and plans to push back on any minimum standards which may be imposed on imported food during trade negotiations.

Red Tractor CEO, Jim Moseley says; “We are extremely proud of the role that assurance standards have played, in conjunction with many other agencies, in supporting the UK’s ambitions to deliver these big reductions in antibiotic usage.“We are proud of the magnitude of work undertaken by farmers so they can carry the Red Tractor logo. We produce food to excellent standards at a price that consumers can afford and we don’t want our shoppers to have to purchase imported products produced to lower or no standards. We want to ensure that we remain ahead of the world rather than having our first-class standards eroded.”

Many shoppers may not realise the lengths farm-assured business now go to. For example Red Tractor Assurance Standards require pig farmers to upload their antibiotic usage every quarter onto an Electronic Medicines Book (eMB) which records all on-farm usage of antibiotics in one place. The eMB also allows producers to benchmark their antibiotic use on their farm(s) against data from similar enterprises. It’s a great tool for farmers and vets which can help to encourage responsible reduction.