Tackling antimicrobial use and resistance in pig production
This report describes an arduous campaign to limit the use of antimicrobials – specifically antibiotics – in the Danish swine-producing sector. Readers may interpret the conclusion as a promotion of the swine industry in Denmark. This is not the case; rather it is an example of one country's experience addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the swine sector. It is a testimony of the collaboration between the regulatory sector within the Ministry of Environment and Food (and its agriculture-focused precursors), private veterinary practitioners and swine producers (large and small), to tackle the unsustainable overuse of antibiotics in the industry. The report is a retrospective tribute to all those who had the foresight to make significant changes to ensure consumer protection – improving hygiene at primary sites of swine production, developing options for intervention through a system of surveillance and collation of data from feed mills to veterinary practitioner prescriptions, identifying sites for intervention, setting targets, estructuring the relationship between the veterinary services and farmers, and implementing changes in behaviour for greatest impact. Denmark in many ways laid out a plan before there was any known roadmap to follow; every step was based on continuous analysis and feedback to the operators – private and public – for ongoing monitoring and accountability as a driver for change.
In 1998, a ban on antibiotics as growth promoters came into effect. In addition, thanks to Denmark's policy of investing in strategies for infection prevention – for example, improving hygiene and nutrition, and introducing improved housing facilities – the overall use of antibiotics in the swine sector continues to decrease, and a reduction of 25 percent has been achieved since 2009. Throughout this period, profitability has been maintained.
The "story" is far from ended. As new information becomes avail- able, such as findings concerning livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA), the Danish swine industry is once again leading the way in determining how to curb its occurrence through science, risk assessments for policymaking, public discourse and stakeholder engagement. Solutions are born of a shared goal for safe and sustainable food production. Meeting the challenge of antimicrobial resistance involves learning from one another. It is hoped that this historical guide may serve other countries, food producers, regulators, veterinarians and those responsible for veterinary structures, as well as academia, to help identify ways forward to limit the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance that threatens public health, animal health and safe food production worldwide and in their own environment.