Antibiotic consumption in European livestock

Again there’s a clear north-south gradient among EU countries when measuring livestock consumption of antibiotics, according to a comprehensive study by the ECDC last year. At the top are Cyprus, with almost 400 mg of antibiotic are consumed for each kilogram of meat produced, followed by Italy with 341 mg. Germany has around average levels of livestock antibiotic consumption, with 200 mg of antibiotic used for every kilogram of meat produced.

At the lower end of the scale are the Scandinavian countries. Per kilogram of meat produced, Finland uses 24 mg of antibiotics, Sweden 13, Iceland six, and Norway four – which is roughly 100 times less than Cyprus. When it comes to total consumption of antibiotics Italy is at the top of the scale with 1,400 tonnes sold for use in livestock in 2014. Germany is second with 1,300 tonnes, but the data is nearly three years old and since then German farmers have significantly reduced their consumption of antibiotics.

According to another ECDC study in 2015, France was at the top of the scale with 720 tonnes of antibiotic sold for use in food producing animals, followed by Italy and then Spain.

In human medicine 3,400 tonnes of antibiotics were sold in total in the 26 countries studied. More than twice this amount were sold for use in animals – 8,000 tonnes,

According to the ECDC study this massive use of antibiotics in animals is problematic for humans. This is because individual bacteria which develop resistance to antibiotics in animals can also affect humans, or pass their (resistant) genetic material to bacteria which can affect humans.

The study also demonstrates the link between antibiotic use and rates of antibiotic resistance – the more antibiotics are consumed in a given country, the more resistance is found to that antibiotic in the country.