I fully share current concerns about the growth in antibiotic resistance, which is recognised as a complex and multi-faceted issue requiring a broad and co-ordinated approach involving both the human and veterinary medicine spheres. The publication at the end of 2011 of the European Commission’s Action Plan in relation to anti-microbial resistance represented a particularly significant milestone in the development of an EU wide strategy covering both human and veterinary medicines. My Department and associated agencies are participating in the development of specific measures to deliver on the 12 Actions set out in the Plan. My Department has already ensured that, in accordance with EU legislation, advertising of antibiotics to farmers is prohibited and that such medicines may only be used on the prescription of a veterinary practitioner in respect of animals under his/her care.
My Department carries out extensive testing for antibiotic residues under the National Residue Plan, the results of which are published. For example, in 2012, almost 9,500 samples were tested for antibiotic residues, of which 0.1% contained residues in excess of authorised levels. The carcasses concerned had been detained in all cases and were prohibited from entering the food chain. A follow up inspection takes place in all cases at the farm of origin and appropriate action is taken including mandatory additional testing and, where appropriate, penalties are applied under the Single Farm Payment Regime. All residue positives, including those for antibiotics, are reported to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland under established protocols. The Authority, which is an independent scientific agency coming under the aegis of the Minister for Health, carries out a risk assessment to determine whether there are any issues for public health.
In terms of other actions in this important area, my Department’s Central Veterinary Research Laboratory is designated as National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for Antimicrobial Resistance as part of the EU network of NRL’s in implementing an EU wide harmonised AMR monitoring programme (annual reports are available on DAFM website (see laboratories/ zoonoses)).