The pledge was included in its new action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), adopted yesterday.
The Commission calls AMR a serious social and economic burden that is responsible for around 25,000 deaths per year in the EU alone and 700,000 deaths per year globally.
The Commission said it will provide evidence-based data, with the support of the ECDC, the EMA and the EFSA, on possible links between the consumption of antimicrobial agents and the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in humans and farm animals.
The strategy has three pillars: i) Making the EU a best-practice region, ii) Boosting research, development & innovation and iii) Shaping the global agenda.
The Commission said issues addressed in the previous EU AMR action plan, published in 2011, are still relevant today. “However, initiatives need to be broadened, such as extending the One Health approach to include the environment and tackling AMR more comprehensively on the basis of improved data collection, monitoring and surveillance.
“Further support and assistance to EU member states to address differences and foster cooperation, more efficient and coordinated research to improve knowledge and develop solutions, and a continued strong EU voice at global level, were also recommended.”
Feeding regimes that support good animal health and welfare
The plan was welcomed by EU compound feed and premix industry group, FEFAC.
It said the publication recognized the contribution animal nutrition science could provide in the fight against AMR, in line with the conclusions of the EFSA-EMA RONAFA report issued in January 2017:
“Safe and nutritionally balanced feed are effective preventive measures to help animals to cope with pathogens by enhancing the overall animal health and welfare status through specific feeding strategies, feed composition, feed formulations or feed processing.”
The Commission noted that several Eurobarometer surveys on AMR carried out since 2010 show that the level of awareness of the relationship between the use of antimicrobials and the development and spread of AMR is still low. "This is a major cause for the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in humans and animals. More must be done to raise awareness and education about AMR."
However, FEFAC said that it expected that the Commission would have put a higher priority on public funding of research to prove the safety and efficacy of some of the innovative feed products listed in the RONAFA report from organic acids, probiotics, synbiotics, bacteriophages, immunomodulators, and clay minerals.
The trade group said it is concerned that some of these products may even disappear from the market in absence of public funding.
It also stressed the need for an improved regulatory framework on authorization of feed additives, feed labelling and claims on nutritional benefits for maintaining a good animal health status, in order to facilitate transfer of nutritional knowledge and innovative solutions to the farm level.
FEFAC said it shares the view expressed in the RONAFA report that the fight against AMR also requires strong cooperation among stakeholders at national level. It stressed that national authorities must ensure coordination of efforts undertaken by all relevant stakeholders in national AMR action plans.
Chain partners with close connections to livestock farmers including feed suppliers, veterinarians, and the animal health industry should join forces and create national and local networks of expertise to disseminate best practices and co-ordinate advice to farmers.
‘Some countries are still lagging behind’
Camille Perrin, senior food policy officer at EU consumer organization, BEUC, reacting to the new commitments, said all EU Member States must swiftly develop strategies to tackle AMR in their country if they have not done so yet.
“Some countries are still lagging behind on the fight against AMR from farming. Sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals were 36 times higher in Spain than in Sweden in 2014.”
“We know that countries – principally in Northern Europe – where governments have acted to reduce the use of farm antibiotics show decreasing AMR levels.”
She argued improved surveillance is also needed to monitor and evaluate progress.
“It is positive the Commission wants all member States to report data on the use of farm antibiotics per animal species – not just sales. Countries who have gone further, such as Denmark, and collect data per individual farm are the ones who achieved the best results.”
She encouraged the EU to cease imports of meat products that do not meet the requirements for farm antibiotic use that apply to EU farmers. “It is the most effective way for the EU to push the rest of the world to follow its lead on AMR.”
She said BEUC hopes the release of the action plan will give new impetus to Council’s discussions on the veterinary medicines and medicated feed law proposals. “It is high time we move forward with these much-needed laws that can make a real difference in tackling in tackling AMR. But to do so, EU governments must back the European Parliament and support an EU ban on the routine preventive use of farm antibiotics.”