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Denmark Sees Small Increase in Animal Antibiotic Use

Denmark’s latest numbers on the country’s antimicrobial use and resistance are in. The total consumption of antimicrobial agents by the country’s animals in 2013 was about 128 tons — a 4-percent increase over the previous year.

According to the new DANMAP (Danish Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring and Research Program) report, the increase is mainly attributed to a 6-percent increase in the consumption of antimicrobials in pig production, which accounts for the vast majority of Denmark’s meat production. However, consumption in poultry and pets also increased.

Of the antimicrobials used by animals in 2013, pigs accounted for about 78 percent, cattle 10 percent, aquaculture 3 percent, poultry 1 percent, fur animals 4 percent, and pets, horses and other companion animals the remaining 3 percent.

A silver lining to the increase in pig production is that the animals still consumed less than they did in 2009 when consumption was at its highest. Since then, Danish farmers stopped using antimicrobials for growth promotion. But the country is not necessarily satisfied by this.

”It is crucial that we reverse the increase in consumption, if we are to tackle the problem of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria,” said Yvonne Agersø, senior researcher with the National Food Institute.

Denmark has a ban on using antimicrobial drugs at non-therapeutic levels for growth promotion and disease prevention, but Danish farmers still use the drugs to treat infections.

That country’s limits on, and tracking of, antimicrobial drug use in animals are models for what many would like to see provided in the U.S.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) often references Denmark when talking about banning non-therapeutic uses in U.S. meat production.

And, in discussing the 2013 DANMAP data, Gail Hansen, senior officer for The Pew Charitable Trust’s campaign on human health and industrial farming, told Food Safety News, “I wish we had this much detail.”

Denmark’s species-level use data is something that critics of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s antimicrobial sales data — released last week — would like to see applied to the U.S.

Some of the other interesting points in the DANMAP data:

  • Consumption of critically important antimicrobials in animal production is still low.
  • Salmonella Typhimurium is one of the most common serovars in Danish pigs and pork, as well as in human infections, and resistance has increased over the past five years.
  • It was estimated that 9 percent of Danish pigs and 0.5 percent of the pig carcasses were positive for multi-resistant Salmonella.
  • The level of fluoroquinolone (ciprofloxacin) resistance in Campylobacter jejuni remains higher among isolates from imported broiler meat compared with isolates from Danish broiler meat.
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