A pivotal role for animal nutrition in global efforts against antimicrobial resistance

10 August 2017

Speaking at a European Parliament conference, the CEO of Trouw Nutrition's parent corporation, Nutreco, Knut Nesse presented a strong plea for alternative strategies in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

“Nutritional solutions are the first line of defence in keeping animals healthy and productive, and will play a pivotal role in drastically reducing the need and use of antibiotics in food production. But it requires a change in the mind-set of the global industry, as well as resolute regulatory support.”

The Scientific, human health, husbandry, and socio-economic aspects of antibacterial resistance: time to act conference, initiated by the ENVI and ITRE European Parliament Committees, took place on Wednesday 28 June in Brussels.

In addition to speakers from the key health and food safety organisations and authorities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), several industry representatives shared their views on what is universally considered as one of the greatest threats to public health today.

Moving towards a new model based on feed, farm and health management

Unchecked, as was highlighted by one of the speakers, the growing demand for animal protein will lead to a massive 217% increase of antibiotic use in food production by 2030. The vast majority of antibiotics in food production are used for non-curative purposes, making a drastic reduction of antibiotic use in farming both crucial and inevitable.

“The animal nutrition industry plays a pivotal role in reducing the need for antibiotics,” explained Nesse in his presentation. “We need to make a fundamental change in farming practices by moving towards a new model based on integrated feed, farm and health management.”

Nutreco strongly believes in multi-stakeholder collaboration. The company is investing vast resources in research and validation of nutrition based solutions that substantially reduce the need for antibiotics.

In his presentation, Nesse highlighted actual results demonstrating that the use of antibiotics can be drastically reduced while maintaining performance, irrespective of geography or industry maturity. He presented three business cases that not only prove that up to 99% of antibiotic free production can be reached, but that profitability can be retained or even increased. This is vital for the commitment of producers to a feed-farm-health approach.

“There is no silver bullet. Each and every time, the solution requires a close cooperation between all the stakeholders and a careful analysis of the situation”.

Regulatory support

Resolute regulatory support is required to accelerate the change and motivate the food industry to move in the right direction. Already last year Nutreco identified four priorities for regulatory leadership:

  1. Improving transparency through monitoring antibiotic use in food production and the surveillance of antibiotic resistance;
  2. Setting ambitious reduction targets without back doors;
  3. Funding research into non-antibiotic (nutrition based) alternatives; and
  4. A suitable regulatory framework for nutritional solutions, including the possibility to carry the label claim “promoting health and growth”.

Need for stronger support in the EU Action Plan

With the publication of the EU Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance yesterday, the European Commission expressed its desire to make the EU a best-practice region. Although containing good elements, the overall tenure of the Action Plan understates the root cause of the problem: the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

Knut Nesse: “The Action Plan does not provide the resolute regulatory support our industry needs to drastically reduce the use of antibiotics. Although there is a shared reality regarding the seriousness of antimicrobial resistance, the awareness of available nutrition based solutions appears to be insufficient.”