European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis outlines the EU’s ‘One Health’ approach to tackling antimicrobial resistance
Many of us know that the misuse of antibiotics in people leads to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – a growing challenge already responsible for 25,000 deaths in the EU every year. However, practices in veterinary medicine and farming also play a role in increasing bacterial resistance. To address the risks, including the one emanating from our food chain, the EU has championed a ‘one health’ approach to tackling antimicrobial resistance for nearly two decades, taking concrete actions in human and veterinary medicines simultaneously.
Experts agree that reducing antimicrobial use in food-producing animals would help decrease the level of AMR we see in Europe and worldwide today. They urge, for example, that critically important antimicrobials for human medicine should only be used in animals as a last resort, and that the use of medicated feed as a preventative measure in food-producing animals, should be stopped.
Taking this advice seriously, the Commission adopted back in 2014 a legislative proposal on veterinary medicinal products and on medicated feed. They include regulatory tools that enable the Commission and EU countries to continue protecting animal health and welfare, whilst reducing the development and spread of AMR resistance in animals and hence in the food chain. I encourage both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to adopt these two pieces of legislation with no further delay.
This June, I presented a new EU ‘One Health’ Action Plan on AMR, taking account of the lessons learned from the previous one which ran from 2011 to 2016. I want us to focus on key areas with the highest added value for EU countries and make sure that human, animal and food-related actions are prominent in all three of its pillars. Examples include:
Pillar 1: Making the EU a best practice region
- Reviewing EU implementing legislation on monitoring AMR in farm animals and food;
- Providing evidence-based data on possible links between consumption of antimicrobial agents and the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in humans and food-producing animals and;
- Continuing to promote animal husbandry systems and feeding regimes which support good animal health, while reducing antimicrobial consumption.
Pillar 2: Boosting research and innovation
- Supporting research to better understand the epidemiology of AMR, in particular the pathways of transmission between animals and humans, and their impact;
- Increasing the knowledge-base on barriers to the wider use of vaccination in medical and veterinary practice and;
- Encouraging the uptake of diagnostics in medical and veterinary practice.
Pillar 3: Shaping the global agenda
- Working towards continued high-level political attention and commitment to one health AMR action, including in the United Nations forums, the G7 and G20;
- Advocating the EU one health standards and measures for tackling AMR in trade agreements and;
- Helping develop AMR strategies in the areas of food safety and animal health in developing countries, through regional training workshops.
Only a few months on from the action plan’s adoption, I am pleased with the progress we are making on its veterinary medicine and food safety aspects:
The EU One-Health Network, bringing together chief veterinary officers and chief public health officers from all EU countries has already met to discuss objectives and working methods. In July, three EU-level scientific agencies added to scientific evidence on the ‘one health’ aspect of AMR with the JIACRA II report which confirms the positive association between antimicrobial consumption and resistance in both humans and food-producing animals.
On 29 September, the Commission and the Food and Agriculture Organisation on the United Nations (FAO) committed to intensifying cooperation on tackling the spread of AMR on farms and in food systems. Before the end of October, our scientific agencies will adopt a list of indicators for the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial consumption in humans and food-producing animals.
As cooperation and coordination are essential to make all aspects of the action plan a success, I am pleased with the welcome and the offers of cooperation and support I have received from the national health and agriculture ministers. I also welcome the support and commitment of international bodies such as the WHO, OIE and FAO. I am confident that together we can make progress in tackling AMR with one planet, one voice and one health approach.
The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and The European Medicines Agency (EMA).
EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety
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