Baroness Hayman, Minister of State at MAFF said:
"The Government takes the problem of antibiotic resistance extremely seriously. The report from the ACMSF was a welcome and timely investigation into this problem in the context of food and the rearing of food-producing animals. The Government has accepted all the recommendations that require direct Government action and for the others, the document outlines the regulations that are already in place or the activities that are in progress to address those particular issues. The Government already has a number of initiatives underway in this field."
Ms Stuart, Parliamentary Secretary (Health) said,
"The Government believes that it is tackling this problem at a fundamental level and is pleased to accept the recommendations of the ACMSF and recognises that their report highlighted those areas that require further action in order to protect public health."
The ACMSF report is an in-depth review of the role of food in the transfer of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from animals to humans. The ACMSF's recommendations are wide-ranging. They include the collection of data on the use of antibiotics in animals, increased monitoring and surveillance for resistant microorganisms, the development of standard methodologies to improve comparability of data between laboratories investigating clinical disease in human beings and animals, the development of Codes of Practice for the veterinary profession in the use of antimicrobial products and improvement of on-farm animal husbandry practices. The Government's response outlines the work already under way on many areas to ensure that any risk to human health from the use of antibiotics in animals is reduced to a minimum.
The ACMSF's report also calls for a considerable amount of research to be conducted into the subject of antibiotic resistance. The Government's response emphasises that these requirements will be prioritised and considered within the context of the overall R&D budget. Over the next three years £3.7m will be directed into research directly relevant to the issue of antibiotic resistance in bacteria from food-producing animals. This will help to focus and direct policies in this area in the future.
The ACMSF is the body that advises the Government on the microbiological safety of food. The report entitled 'Microbial Antibiotic Resistance in Relation to Food Safety' was published in August 1999. The ACMSF set up a Working Group of the Committee in 1996 in order to assess the risk to humans from antibiotic resistant microorganisms entering the food chain and to consider the need for any action to protect public health.
The Government's response was announced to Parliament earlier today by way of an answer to a written Parliamentary Question. The full text of the response reads:
'Yes, the Government has given careful consideration to all of the recommendations made by the ACMSF in its report and has accepted those that call for Government action. For the other recommendations, the regulations that are already in place or the activities that are underway have been outlined in the Government's response.
'The response to the report highlights the importance the Government attaches to the issue of antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, it indicates the considerable amount of work that is already underway in this field to prevent, reduce or delay the development of antimicrobial resistance in food-producing animals. This includes a number of research and development projects in this area, funding for which will amount to £3.7m over the next three years. The results from these projects will direct future policy decisions and thus further minimise the risk to public health.'