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Danish success to strengthen EU action against resistant bacteria

Each year, more than 25,000 Europeans die from infection due antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Today, the Danish Minister for Environment and Food, Esben Lunde Larsen, will meet with the EU Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, to discuss initiatives to prevent antibiotic resistance.

For more than 20 years, Denmark has been monitoring developments in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the consumption of antibiotics at farms and at hospitals. This work has contributed to Danish farmers reducing their use of antibiotics, which peaked in 2009. Danish consumption is currently at a level which only a few other countries can match.

Esben Lunde Larsen will propose to the EU Health Commissioner that detailed monitoring of antibiotic consumption for livestock be included in future initiatives from the European Commission when a possible new action plan is launched later this year.

Experience from Denmark shows that systematic monitoring is an effective tool for keeping down consumption.  

"Antibiotic resistance does not respect borders, and therefore it is important that the EU stay united in the fight against resistance. Each year, more than 25,000 Europeans die from infection due antibiotic-resistant bacteria. One of the major culprits is overuse of antibiotics in both humans and livestock," said the Minister for Environment and Food, Esben Lunde Larsen.

Denmark has succeeded in reducing antibiotic consumption in livestock by about 20% since 2009.

The Danish model

Farmers approaching a high consumption of antibiotics receive a yellow card, and are encouraged to adjust their consumption. Moreover, systematic calculations of consumption at farms enable the sector to learn from the best. Denmark is at the forefront compared to other countries with the same intensive production.

"Antibiotics should be used with care, so that we can continue to cure life-threatening diseases. My message to the Commissioner today is therefore that I hope he will exploit the experience from Denmark and reduce antibiotic consumption. What is needed is that all EU Member States begin to monitor systematically their antibiotic consumption for animals," said Esben Lunde Larsen. 

The European Commission's five-year action plan against resistance to antibiotics will end in autumn 2016. The action plan is expected to be replaced by new initiatives – probably by a new action plan.  

Today, the Minister for Environment and Food will visit Statens Serum Institut (SSI) together with the EU Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis. SSI will present the Danish model for combating antibiotic resistance. The press are welcome.

See diagram of antibiotic consumption for livestock in Denmark and in other EU Member States here (Danish).

Time and place

From 2pm-3pm at Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Artillerivej 5, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark. Sign up is necessary through Jeanette Løv Rasmussen, Press Officer.

Further information:

Jeanette Løv Rasmussen, Press Officer, Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, tel.: +45 9359 7070, e-mail: jelra@mfvm.dk

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration can be contacted through the press telephone at +45 2284 4834.

Facts

  •  Each year, more than 25,000 Europeans die from infection due antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Treatments that used to be effective have lost their effect. One of the major culprits is overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals.
  • Modern society is heavily dependent on antibiotics. Antibiotics cure diseases such as pneumonia and are vital in connection with major surgery. Moreover, antibiotics are often used in modern livestock production. Like humans, animals fall ill, and previously they died or were killed. Treatment with antibiotics means that most farm animals are now cured and farmers can supply their animals free of disease to the abattoir. 
  • Use of antibiotics poses an inherent risk of the development of bacteria resistance. When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, they attempt to defend themselves by modifying their genes in order to develop resistance. The more antibiotics we use, the greater the risk of them developing resistance.
  • Denmark has succeeded in reducing the use of antibiotics in agriculture through monitoring, guidelines and restrictions.

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