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Use of the feed additive avoparcin banned across Europe

24/1996, 20.12.1996

European Union endorses health assessment by BgVV

The Commission of the European Union (EU) has banned the use of the feed additive avoparcin across Europe from April 1997. Hence, it has endorsed the assessment of the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine, BgVV, which had repeatedly expressed major concerns about further use. In Germany the use of avoparcin had already been banned since the beginning of the year by an emergency ordinance of the Federal Ministry for Nutrition, Agriculture and Forestry (BMELF). Prior to that, BgVV together with the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had declared itself in favour of the ban in an extensive report.

Avoparcin belongs to the group of glycopeptide antibiotics which are also used in human medicine. BgVV and RKI are of the opinion that the use of glycopeptide antibiotics in animal nutrition brings with it the risk of a limitation of treatment opportunities in human medicine as a consequence of the spread of glycopeptide resistance. Corresponding indications had also been provided by the study reports of the Robert Koch Institute.

On the initiative of BgVV the Federal Republic had already asked the responsible bodies of the European Union in 1994 to examine the Europe-wide marketing authorisation of avoparcin. The objections of the Federal Republic were initially deemed to be irrelevant by the vast majority of Member States and the European Commission. In May 1995 Denmark pushed through marketing authorisation for avoparcin by going it alone. In June 1995 BgVV, together with the Robert Koch Institute, organised a scientific hearing with leading experts in order to clarify to what extent the available data confirmed the suspicion of the development of cross-resistances.

Although the hearing did not produce any concrete indications for a threat to man through the spread of resistances via bacteria from animals to germs which were pathogenic for man, BgVV and RKI recommended to the Federal Ministry for Nutrition, Agriculture and Forestry by referring to additional data from Scandinavia that it ban avoparcin on the grounds of precautionary consumer protection. Avoparcin may no longer be used in Germany since 1996.

After the Scientific Committee of the EU had initially rejected by a vast majority the grounds of the Federal Republic of Germany for suspending the marketing authorisation of avoparcin, the Standing Committee on Feedstuffs came out in favour of an EU-wide ban at the suggestion of the Commission. Since April 1997 onwards avoparcin may no longer be used in the other countries of the European Union.

BgVV is of the opinion that in addition to avoparcin antibiotics should, in principle, be banned as feed additives when they are used at the same time in human medicine and can lead to cross-resistances.


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