New EU rules to reduce ZnO and antibiotic use in agriculture
By Ingemar Pongratz
New EU rules to reduce ZnO and antibiotic use in agriculture have been introduced in 2022. Resistance to antibiotics is a major health concern worldwide. Excessive use of antibiotics leads to the development of resistant bacteria that lead to diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, salmonella etc. Resistant bacteria lead to increased treatment costs, prolonged hospitalization and even death. Reducing the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria is thus a key priority to protect human and animal health.
The obvious strategy to reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria is to reduce the use of antibiotics. Most antibiotic administration today occurs in the agricultural sector, where antibiotics are used as growth promoting compounds. In fact, 80% of antibiotics are not administered for clinical purposes. Instead, antibiotics are administered without prescriptions or clinical indications through feed to increase animal growth. This over prescription then leads the development of resistant bacteria that can cause diseases that are immune to antibiotics.
In fact, recent studies in Denmark showed that Colistine resistant bacteria are present in imported chicken and pig meat. This is very concerning, as Colistine is currently our last resort antibiotic, used when everything else has failed.
To tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance, the European Commission has introduced legislation to ban the use of antibiotics as Growth Promoters in animal production. New EU rules to reduce ZnO and antibiotic use in agriculture will start in 2022. The use of antibiotics in food industry is considerably reduced. In line with WHO recommendations, antibiotics can only be administered to individual, sick animals. Antimicrobials will this not be used to compensate for poor animal husbandry and not be administered to animal heard for preventive purposes.
In practical terms this means that antibiotic consumption will be considerably reduced across the European Union.
In addition, the EU mentions specifically UK animal husbandry, where prophylactic use of antibiotics is still permitted. The EU thus states that the UK legislation is not in line with EU standards and will therefore presumably not be allowed to be sold in the EU.
Furthermore, the EU has introduced new regulations to ban the use of ZnO also starting June 2022. High, pharmaceutical doses of ZnO has been widely used to reduce post-weaning diarrhoea (PWD) in chicken, pig and other livestock. However, use of ZnO has several unwanted effects as well. ZnO accumulates in tissues and leads to tissue damage. In addition, ZnO increases incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria and creates environmental problems through deposition of Zn in fields through manure.
The use of ZnO in animal production is banned in the EU starting 2022. Furthermore, the EU expects that other countries like the UK will follow in the same path and reduce the use of ZnO in animal husbandry.
Taken together these are important steps to reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistance and will in time improve human health. However, these novel regulatory measures create considerable problem for animal producers.
New methods and new products need to be developed that can replace antibiotics and ZnO in animal production. Furthermore, these new alternatives need to safe, for humans, animals and the environment. Currently, there are only few alternatives that can replace antibiotics and ZnO.
However, among the few possible replacement candidates, there are some interesting alternatives. Letavis AB, a Swedish research-intensive SME has developed a novel formulation based on natural compounds with documented ability to promote animal growth, reduce the need for antibiotic treatments and with positive effects on PWD.
Currently, field trials suggest that these formulations are efficient and up to the task.
Letavis AB is currently finalising the test and is expected to identify suitable collaborators to launch these formulations commercially in 2023.
More information will be presented in the Letavis AB homepage.
Ingemar Pongratz is founder of Fenix Scientific AB / Pongratz Consulting. Thorugh Fenix Scientific AB / Pongratz Consulting we support universities and enterprises to apply for EU financing from different EU funding sources such as Horizon Europe. If you and your organization are interested in our professional services please contact us through the Online Contact Form in this link.
In addition, Ingemar Pongratz is co-founder of Letavis AB. Through Letavis AB we develop novel research-based products for the agricultural sector. Our solutions are based on natural compounds that have been improved through different formulations strategies. Please contact us here if you want additional information of you are interested in collaboration.