Meat & Livestock News

Promising Progress: New Zealand’s Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance

New Zealand’s efforts to combat antibiotic resistance have yielded positive results, with a significant reduction in antibiotic sales for agricultural use.

Data from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Food Safety division shows a remarkable 23% decrease in antibiotic sales within just one year. This reduction aligns with the global goal of addressing antibiotic-resistant superbugs, identified by the World Health Organization as a major threat to human health.

This achievement is attributed to the Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan, a collaborative initiative involving the Ministry of Health and New Zealand Food Safety since 2017.

The plan emphasizes the importance of responsible antibiotic use across various sectors, recognizing antimicrobials as a shared resource vital to humans, animals, and plants.

Digging into the Numbers

The decline in antibiotic sales for agricultural purposes has been consistent since 2017. During that year, total sales reached 71,361 kilograms, which has decreased to 41,033 kilograms by 2022.

Among all animals, dairy cattle stand as the largest consumers, accounting for over half of antibiotic sales. Pigs follow at 16%, horses at 9%, and other animals make up the rest.

Vincent Arbuckle, New Zealand Food Safety’s deputy director-general, commended this substantial 23% reduction as a significant milestone. He emphasized the urgency of responsible antibiotic usage, given the escalating global threat of antimicrobial resistance.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has set an ambitious target: eliminating the routine antibiotic use for animal health by 2030. Dennis Scott, a key figure in the association’s antimicrobial resistance group, is optimistic about achieving this goal.

Human Health Sector Faces Challenges

While the agricultural sector’s progress is commendable, New Zealand’s human health sector struggles to keep up. The country reports one of the highest rates of antibiotic use among humans globally, with most antibiotic resistance in disease-causing bacteria attributed to human antibiotic consumption, not agricultural use.

Expert Insights

Associate Professor Mark Thomas from Auckland University acknowledged the agricultural sector’s achievements but emphasized the need for a parallel commitment in human health.

Professor Jack Heinemann of Canterbury University added depth to the discussion, noting that reducing antibiotic use is a positive step but not the ultimate solution. He highlighted the necessity of a comprehensive, multidisciplinary strategy to fully restore antibiotic effectiveness.

New Zealand’s agricultural sector sets a commendable example with its efforts to reduce antibiotic use. However, experts underscore the importance of a holistic approach, particularly in the human health sector, to effectively counter the looming threat of antibiotic resistance.