Eastern Europe discusses antibiotic resistance

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Russia, Ukraine and Estonia have all raised concerns over antibiotic use in meat
Russia, Ukraine and Estonia have all raised concerns over antibiotic use in meat
Strong concerns over the use of antibiotics in the meat industry have been aired recently in Russia, Ukraine and Estonia.

The Russian Parliament is still considering measures aimed at tackling the use of antibiotics in the meat industry. In December 2017, Russian MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky called on the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament, to introduce the first nationwide limits on the use of antibiotics in livestock, as he claimed superbugs had become a major threat to the health of consumers.

Vladimir Plotnikov, another member of the Russian Parliament, also claimed that Russia needed an electronic traceability system to monitor antibiotics use in the meat industry. He stressed this was the only way to ensure that meat products would be really safe for consumers.

Although both those suggestions were submitted to the State Duma’s veterinary committee in December 2017, no progress on them has been made since then, according to the State Duma’s website.

The Russian Parliament’s press service has not provided any comments on the status of both initiatives in response to a request from GlobalMeatNews​.

Discussions over the use of antibiotics in the meat industry were sparked in Russia in late May, as a study conducted by GSK showed nearly 36% of the potentially harmful microorganisms present in Russian hospitals between 2014 and 2016 had a resistance to penicillin and several other antibiotics. In addition, 2% to 3% pneumococcus and H. influenza showed resistance to amoxicillin, one of the main antibiotics used in Russia.

Concerns sparked in Ukraine

Meanwhile, concerns about antibiotics in meat were also expressed by Ulana Suprun, Ukraine’s Health Minister, on her Facebook page on 24 May.

She warned that consumers were at risk of contracting superbugs, especially when regularly eating meat with antibiotic residues.

Volodimir Lapa, chairman of the Ukraine veterinary watchdog Gosvetphitosluzba, argued that it would be wrong to draw any conclusions about antibiotics in meat on the Ukraine market. He stressed that Gosvetphitosluzba was running a state monitoring program on antibiotic residues, and it was very rare to find meat producers in the country violating the standards set by this program.

Lapa, however, did not comment on the threat of antibiotic resistance to consumer health.

Low awareness

Low consumer awareness about antibiotic resistance is believed to be the main reason why this problem is not being addressed in most Eastern European countries.

The results of research conducted by Estonian analytical agency Faktum-Ariko showed that 43% of citizens in the country had no idea what this definition meant. The research was ordered by Kekava, the largest meat producer in Estonia.

In a statement, Kekava claimed it was the only poultry meat producer in the Baltics releasing antibiotic-free products on the market. The average consumer in Estonia was not alarmed about the superbugs and this was the reason why antibiotic-free meat was not in the big demand in the market, he said.

This, it seems, is a common situation for the entire post-Soviet region. 

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