The country had a four-fold hike in production volume of antibiotics - 15,000t to 47,000t - between 2010 and 2012, reveals a report from the Russian State Statistics Service.
This figure dropped by 50% in 2013 but experts allege the actual volume of production and consumption of feed antibiotics in Russia is four to five times higher than the official figures.
In March this year, Russian veterinary watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, disclosed that a significant proportion of meat products in the Russian market contained excessive levels of antibiotics, in some cases three to four times the maximum levels allowed.
"In order to avoid the development of resistant microorganisms, it is important to rotate the drugs that we are using. And most [Russian] veterinarians currently do not even think about it.
An example is the history of use for the fluoroquinolone, enrofloxacin. Over the past 20 years, the dosage levels have been raised several times all over the country, and there are many other similar examples," said Mikhail Jilin, head of an advisory group on antibiotic usage at Moscow-based veterinary product supplier Bioprom.
Unlike the EU, Russia has not banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feeds, although the use of six drugs (chloramphenicol/levomycetin, tetracycline, streptomycin, penicillin, gricin and bacitracin) is strictly regulated.
Under Russian law, it is not permissible for any of these six antibiotics to be present in meat, fat, egg or milk products.
Maximum permissible levels for antibiotic residues are specified in the Russian Sanitary Norm (SanPiN) 126.96.36.1998-01 ‘Hygiene requirements for the safety and nutritional value of food products’.
Russian institute, Research Techart, estimates that about 3,500 tons of antibiotics are consumed by Russian livestock each year, and it reports that around 19% of these are growth stimulators while 22% are used for prophylactic purposes.
Antibiotics in use by Russian poultry and meat producers include enrofloxacin, trimethoprim, neomycinm, amoxicillin, tetracycline, Colivet, Doxicol, Clinacox, and Salinopharm.
New system of feed surveillance
Russian officials say action is being taken to limit the pervasive use of antibiotics in feed with a new inspection program set to get underway soon.
Nikolai Nesterov, a consultant with Russia’s Scientific Research Institute of Probiotics, told us the Rosselkhoznadzor agency is currently developing an animal feed monitoring system.
Meanwhile, authorities throughout the world are increasingly concerned that the extensive use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in animals is helping to create superbugs - bacteria that are resistant to drugs that treat infections in humans.
A recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates increasing global antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
And the review notes “microorganisms resistant to antimicrobials that emerge in animals may spread to human populations.”
Concern over MRSA transmission to humans
The WHO report highlighted a growing concern about transmission to human populations of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) related to high-density swine production.
The organization said there is a lack of harmonized global standards for integrated surveillance of AMR in the food chain, and on the monitoring of the usage of antimicrobial drugs, which hampers both analysis and sharing of data.
“There are gaps in understanding AMR transmission potential and mechanisms (by bacteria and resistance genes) through the food chain to humans and its impact on human populations,” found the review.