EU parliament backs limits on animal antibiotics

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The European Parliament passed new legislation Thursday cracking down on the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, blamed for encouraging the rise of drug-resistant bacteria in human food.

The law, which still have to be formally approved by EU member states, will make it illegal in Europe for farmers to treat an entire herd or flock with antibiotics just because one animal has become sick.

Farmers will have to get the green light from a vet confirming that such a move is justified because there is a high risk of the other animals becoming infected.

The law would also give the European Union the permission to reserve certain drugs for human use only, and ban farmers from using antibiotics to speed up their animals' growth.

French MEP Francoise Grossetete said the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics was "a real sword of Damocles, threatening to send our health care system back to the Middle Ages".

"Thanks to this law, we will be able to reduce the consumption of antibiotics on livestock farms, an important source of resistance that is then transmitted to humans," said Grossetete, who spearheaded the legislation.

EU member states will have to back the changes before it passes into law, which would probably be in late 2021 or early 2022.

Scientists from the European Centre for Disease Control have warned that bacteria in humans, food and animals show growing resistance to the most widely used antibiotic drugs.

In just one example, strains of the Salmonella food poisoning bacteria, resistant to multiple drugs, have been spreading across the continent.

At the more extreme end of the scale, the World Health Organization has long warned that antibiotic overuse is encouraging new strains of deadly drug-resistant "superbugs".

According to some estimates, drug-resistant bacteria may within decades be causing more deaths than cancer.


© 2018 AFP

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