EU feed industry and regulatory insiders weigh in how sector can reduce antibiotic use

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/JackF
© istock/JackF
A new EU functional group of feed additives is required to incentivize the industry to invest in products to support animal health and welfare, says a Belgian Ministry of Health representative.

Diederik Standaert, from the DG Animal, Plant and Nutrition, Belgian Health Ministry, and former Belgian national representative to the SCOPAFF committee on animal nutrition, was speaking at a high-level event in the European Parliament (EP) on Wednesday: ‘Scientific, Human Health, Husbandry, and Socio-economic Aspects of Antibacterial Resistance: Time to Act’.

He told the conference that a new functional group of feed additives, under Regulation EC No 1831/2003, would create a stimulus for the development and registration of feed additives that support the physiological functions of animals in good health – products that have an impact on animal welfare and performance and would further reduce the need for antibiotics.

“There is a lot of innovation going on around such products including organic acids, fatty acids or certain plant extracts. There is a lot of research and feeding trials. It would be beneficial for industry to be able to take that further into a registration," ​he told FeedNavigator.

He said it could be a winning investment strategy, allowing companies to use certain health claims to promote themselves as leaders in terms of tackling AMR with alternatives to antibiotics.

“The discussion within SCOPAFF about the potential of such a group is still open. There needs to be a fuller debate on it. We are hopeful of getting it through.”

“But we need to be mindful of the language used that we avoid veering into wording associated with medicinal products,”​ he added.

Multi-stakeholder approach

Also addressing the stakeholders from the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety to MEPs, to FAO and WHO representatives, to international academics was Knut Nesse, CEO of Dutch feed giant, Nutreco. He stressed the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach to the AMR challenge.

“I have seen now from participation in events at UN and at the EP level that there is high awareness of AMR within the political landscape, a recognition of the need to reduce antibiotics, but the awareness of alternative, nutrition based strategies appears to be low,”​ he told us afterwards.

He encouraged the feed additive industry to speak with one voice, to make more noise on the role nutrition based programs can play in the fight against AMR.

The CEO said regulatory action would also be welcome in terms of advancing feed additive innovation: “Funding for nutrition based alternatives as well as campaigns with the objective of antibiotic reduction would be beneficial.”

The message he said he was really pushing home to delegates was that the first line of defense in tackling AMR in relation to animal husbandry is a new farming model based on an integrated and multi-stakeholder collaboration.

“It is about combining nutrition, animal health, farm management and biosecurity; it is about getting all of those elements right, and then only using antibiotics when the animals are sick. If we can tick all the boxes in relation to strengthening the immune system of animals, ensuring good gut health, then the need for antibiotics is, substantially, lower,” ​he said.

Nesse cited the 58% reduction in antibiotic use achieved on Dutch farms over only a five-year period as an indicator of how that farming model is working in practice. 

“In Norway also, in the salmon sector, we see that through a program involving genetics, vaccines, nutrition, and better farm management there has been a 99% reduction in the use of antibiotics​.” 

He said, really, it is about changing the mindset of farmers, and supporting them.

“When antibiotic reduction campaigns are underway, we see that farmers get engaged. However, somebody has to take the lead on this.”

He said it was positive to see that the Chinese delegation at the event were, evidently, keen to understand all the aspects of EU legislation on AMR. “We hear, too, from our own people in China that the country is making progress in its policies on antibiotic reduction.”

Feed Farm Health Farming Model - Case studies

Nutreco CEO, Knut Nesse, also presented delegates with examples of specific cases of species relevant antibiotic reduction drives where its customers used this feed-farm-health approach.

Nutreco played a role in feed, farm and health management, making nutritional recommendations, providing advice and services, and implementing feed additives.

In the case of a broiler producer in Israel, the customer decided to develop a new market segment: antibiotic free meat. Using the farming model in question and through analysis of critical points in the production chain and getting advice on corrective measures, the producer achieved a 98,8% rate of broiler flocks raised without antibiotics, while increasing animal performance by >1%. 

broilers
© istock

A German broiler customer, said Nutreco, needed to reduce antibiotics in order to comply with the legislation; it achieved a59% reduction in antibiotic use at 11 farms with 29 million broilers and no loss of productivity. It did this by, first, generating and analyzing data on farm and then improving the feed, farm and health components. “The main results show an improvement in feed conversion ratio and a decrease in mortality, while increasing profitability.”

Finally, a swine producer in Canada was trigger to go antibiotic free due to retail and consumer demands. Within three years, 60% of the pigs were able to carry the raised without antibiotics label, said Nutreco. “The target is set at 85% for the end of this year.” 

Reaction to EU Action Plan

In terms of the Commission’s Action Plan on AMR​, which was published the day after the EP event, Nesse said:

“Although containing good elements, the overall tenure of the Action Plan understates the root cause of the problem: the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

“It does not provide the resolute regulatory support our industry needs to drastically reduce the use of antibiotics. Although there is a shared reality regarding the seriousness of antimicrobial resistance, the awareness of available nutrition based solutions appears to be insufficient.”

Related topics: Regulation

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