Antibiotic report driven by ‘political considerations’

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Denmark's ban on fluoroquinolone use in farming hasn't stopped antimicrobial resistance
Denmark's ban on fluoroquinolone use in farming hasn't stopped antimicrobial resistance

Related tags Antimicrobial resistance Antibiotic resistance Beef Lamb Pork Poultry

A landmark UK report by economist Jim O’Neill on tackling the public health threat of antibiotic resistance has come under fire for putting politics ahead of public health.

The global Review on Antimicrobial Resistance was commissioned by UK Prime Minister David Cameron two years ago to find a solution to a problem likened in magnitude to a terrorist attack. Published on Thursday 19 May, the report called for global action and set out country-specific objectives to reduce antimicrobial resistance.

But Health for Animals has slammed the report, laying down eight key failings O’Neill makes in the blueprint for tackling antimicrobial resistance – the cause of one million deaths already.

The Brussels-based group blamed the report for giving the “wrong impression​” of the global fight to reduce antibiotics dependency. The global community of veterinarians and medicine manufacturers have spent a decade creating policy tools and developing good husbandry practices to promote responsible on-farm antibiotic use, the group claimed.


The report is in parts politically driven and overlooks science as it presents some information in a misleading way,​” a spokesperson from Health for Animals told this site.

Following in the theme of misinformation, Health for Animals said the report’s claim that 70% of antibiotics were sold for animal use in the US was “misleading​”. Comparisons on the tonnage of antibiotics used in human versus animal health were “meaningless” because there are more animals globally than there are people, claimed the group. The spokesman told GlobalMeatNews that they had even had contact with O’Neill’s team to highlight this, only for their point to be ignored.
Health for Animals also criticised the report for being too UK-centric. It accused it of making assumptions for the rest of the world through a UK-warped perception and thus failing to grasp the different challenges and farming systems in livestock management around the world.

Stark warning
The report used the case of Denmark as a model for how countries can reduce antimicrobial resistance. Denmark is one of seven countries around the world to ban the systematic use of fluoroquinolone in farms. But reports from the Danish government showed antibiotic resistance among people had continued to rise​, despite the ban.

Comment from O’Neill’s team on whether the report had “political​” nuances could not be obtained at the time of writing.

But in the report, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK, said: “Lord O’Neill’s Review provides a stark warning that unless we take global action, antimicrobial resistance will become a greater threat to mankind than cancer currently is. It is not just a threat to health, but also to the world economy. Apart from the moral case for action of the sort Lord O’Neill proposes, the economic cost of failing to act is too great to contemplate.​”

Health for Animals is a global association representing manufacturers of veterinary medicines and animal health products.

For reaction on the AMR report, our sister site Meatinfo has commentary from the UK meat industry.

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