A recently released MPI report on the sale of medicines and agricultural chemicals used in the New Zealand dairy, meat and poultry industries still show a notable rise over a two year period.

The report reveals an eight percent increase in the sale of antibiotics for animals and plant use between 2014 and 2016.

Sales of such products are monitored by MPI because they can have an impact on human health. MPI says the latest usage increase could be attributed to a rise in animal and plant production.

And, according to the Ministry, there was a drop in the sales of three classes of antibiotics that are considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be of “highest priority critical importance to human health”. These are third and fourth generation cephalosporins; fluoroquinolones and macrolides.

Concerning feature of report

An interesting, if not concerning, feature of this report compared to the 2011-2014 antibiotic sales analysis is that sales of aminoglycosides, mostly used in horticulture and considered by the World Health Organisation as “critically important” rose alarmingly.

“There has been a 34% increase in aminoglycosides sold compared to the end of the last sales period,” the report states.

“This is almost entirely attributable to the 157% increase in antibiotics sold to the horticultural sector during that time.

“Whilst this is a significant rise in use, total antibiotic sales in New Zealand horticulture only accounted for 0.9% to 1.5% of overall antibiotic sales.”

The report said the increase in purchasing by the horticultural industry was due to the use of streptomycin and kasugamycin to manage outbreaks of Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa) that occurred in kiwifruit during this sales period.

The most significant changes noted with the sales of cephalosporins were seen in products containing cephaphrin benzathine and cephalonium.

“By far the majority of products containing these actives are sold as intramammary and intrauterine preparations for use in cattle,” the report said.

Also, there had been a 55% rise in the sales of 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins during the reporting period, and most of this was attributed to the purchasing of products containing ceftiofur.

“The increase in sales containing this active was also noted during the previous reporting period. Given the sales data, the approved indications for use and the withholding periods for the two ceftiofur products with the majority of sales, it seems likely that most ceftiofur was sold for use in the dairy industry.

According to the report, “the dairy industry has commented that they are taking an active role in advising more judicious use of this drug.”

According to the report the rise in overall antimicrobial use during this period is likely to in part result from the increased populations of poultry and dairy cows.

“Although systems are in place to manage animal health and encourage the prudent use of antibiotics, the report highlights issues that require a collective focus to identify areas for improvement, especially when it comes to the use of those antimicrobials listed as ‘critically important’ to human health.”

The population of food-producing animals has decreased when considering biomass – calculated by taking the weight of an animal into account.

“This is important,” the report says, “when considering the use of antibiotics because the dose administered is dependent on the animal’s weight, thus an 800kg cattle beast would require significantly more than an 80 kg human), and is due to a fall in beef cattle, pig and sheep numbers.

“However, when considering absolute numbers of animals, the population has increased. Pig, beef cattle and sheep numbers have all decreased during this reporting period, while the populations of layer and meat producing poultry has increased along with dairy cattle numbers.”

In conclusion the report says antibiotic use in production animals in New Zealand has been estimated to be the third lowest in the world.

Prudent use still requires attention

“Despite this, the information outlined in this report suggests that the prudent use of antimicrobials still requires attention when choosing the most appropriate therapy for the patient or patients in question. This is of concern when it comes to those antimicrobials which are critically important to human health, and therefore should be considered the last line of defence in animal infections.

“There are four classes of antibiotic of ‘critical’ importance to human medicine, and all of these classes have increased significantly in sales between the end of the previous reporting period and the end of this reporting period: Macrolide sales have increased by 25%, fluoroquinolones by 18%, and aminoglycosides by 34%. In addition to that, the third generation cephalosporin ceftiofur has increased in sales by 55%.”

The Ministry says the contents of the report will contribute to the direction of MPI’s antimicrobial resistance (AMR) work programme which includes a review of the classification system and controls on antibiotic products.

Additional Resources

Read the full 2011 – 2014 MPI report

Antibiotic over use in animal agriculture

Antibiotics in Agriculture: Should we be worried?

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Stern warning issued by WHO

Just over a year ago the World Health Organisation issued a stern warning to farmers to stop using antibiotics to promote animal growth.

At this point WFL has no hard evidence that antibiotics are being used for this purpose in New Zealand but the fact that it should be done anywhere is obviously a cause for concern.

You can read about this warning on the WHO media page.