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Antibiotics in agriculture

Antibiotics are the most important instrument for the treatment of infectious diseases. However, Germany is also seeing an increase in cases of antimicrobial resistance. Due to this, drugs may no longer be effective in diseased people or animals. As each use of antibiotics can produce resistance it must be ensured that antibiotics are only used when it is absolutely necessary, especially in animals used to produce food.

BMEL strategy

The main pillars of the strategy against the inappropriate use of antibiotics in agriculture and antimicrobial resistance comprise legal requirements, comprehensive information, intensive research and risk-oriented monitoring. All measures serve the purpose of preventive health protection which at the same time constitutes preventive consumer protection.

The BMEL approach to a minimisation of the use of antibiotics takes the following factors into account:

  • an improvement of animal husbandry conditions,
  • the tightening of rules in veterinary medicines legislation and
  • the promotion of alternatives to the use of antibiotics, e.g. within the scope of research.

The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) will, by means of a package of targeted measures, better record the use of antibiotics in livestock husbandry and establish new rules for the use of data. This is an important step towards more animal welfare and better animal health.

Clear legal provisions

Clear provisions regulating the use of antibiotics already exist. According to the German Medicinal Products Act, antibiotics must only be used in the treatment of diseased animals but never as a growth promoter. Violations of these provisions are a punishable offence. Monitoring compliance with these provisions is generally the task of federal state authorities. The Länder are responsible for the risk-oriented control of veterinary surgeries and livestock farms.

Only used when therapeutically necessary

For many years the BMEL has been advocating applying a stricter technical standard for the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics must only be used in animals if there is a therapeutic reason for doing so. More than ten years ago the German Medicinal Products Act (AMG) therefore stipulated a limitation of the dispensing of systemically effective antibiotics (11. AMG Amendment) and the requirement of a veterinarian examination previous to the use of such antibiotics.

The 16th amendment of the German Drug Act (AMG) further tightens the regulatory framework for requirements governing the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine. To this end, the amendment, inter alia, creates the possibility to set up a national official data base that, for the first time, would enable the competent inspection authorities of the Länder to directly and extensively inspect the data on the administration of antibiotics to farm animals. The 16th Act amending the Drug Act entered into force on 1 April 2014.

Antibiotics banned as growth-promoting feed additives

Since 1st January 2006 a ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters has applied throughout the EU. For many years now all antibiotically active veterinary drugs for use in food-producing animals have only been available on prescription in Germany. When the veterinarian dispenses veterinary drugs to the animal owner, strict rules ensure the close correlation between diagnosis and treatment of the animals.

German Antibiotics Resistance Strategy "DART"

The German Antibiotics Resistance Strategy "DART" was initiated in 2008. The main aim of this joint strategy by the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is to reduce and mitigate the spread of antimicrobial resistance in Germany. The main points of the DART programme are: Documentation of antibiotic volumes in veterinary medicine, continuous monitoring of the development of antimicrobial resistances, improved information of veterinarians, farmers and consumers, reduction of the use of antibiotics through improvement of prophylaxis and hygiene to avoid infectious diseases, and an antimicrobial resistance situation that allows the effectiveness of antibiotics to be maintained in the future.

The main pillars of this strategy against the superfluous or inappropriate use of antibiotics in agriculture and antimicrobial resistance comprise legal requirements, comprehensive information, intensive research and a risk-oriented monitoring. All measures serve preventive health protection which at the same time constitutes preventive consumer protection.

Working Group on "Antimicrobial Resistance"

The Working Group on "Antimicrobial Resistance" of the BfR (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment) and BVL (Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety) is charged with analysing all new findings such as the results of resistance monitoring or the data on quantities dispensed, conducting risk assessments with regard to the development of antibiotic resistance and formulating strategies for risk management. The Working Group can, at any time, consult experts from all fields (e.g. from research, universities or other Ministries).

As of:
18.12.14

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