'As little as possible, as much as necessary

09 Nov 2019

Loeb, J.

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News that UK sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals continue to fall is welcome.

As data from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) revealed last week (VR, 2 November 2019, vol 185, p 520), antibiotic sales (a proxy for on-farm antibiotic usage) dropped by 9 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

But can sales keep on falling? In theory, yes, they could keep dropping year on year, eventually reaching zero. Would this be a desirable endpoint? No, because sometimes antibiotics are necessary.

Nevertheless, in the minds of some consumers, ‘no antibiotics’ is evidently seen as a plus. American food shoppers already pay a premium for meat and dairy products stamped with the slogan ‘No Antibiotics Ever.’ More and more brands in the USA pride themselves on being ‘antibiotic free,’ and a small number of European food producers have also started catering for this demand.

If – and it’s...