Powerful antibiotics given to farm animals could pose a threat to human health by increasing the risk of super-bugs, a Government minister has said.

By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent
12 Jun 2013

Full story via The Telegraph: Antibiotics given to farm animals could pose super-bug risk, minister admits

David Willetts, the science minister, said the over-use of antibiotics could be a “big global problem” on the scale of climate change and food security, as bacteria may increasingly grow resistant to the drugs.

Doctors have long been urged to rein in their prescriptions of antibiotics for coughs and colds. However, there are now growing calls for their use to be restricted in agriculture, as superbugs could eventually pass to humans who work on farms or through the food chain.

Ahead of a G8 summit on science, Mr Willetts said the UK would push for an agreement to limit the use of antibiotics.

“What the scientists are advising us is that in the long run, you create organisms that are resistant to antibiotics and they may emerge in populations which have been taking too many antibiotics,” he said.

“They may even emerge where the use of antibiotics is in agriculture. As the science ministers gather with our science advisers, we’ll be going through the big global challenges and we are familiar with climate change, food security, and what we are saying is: has antibiotic resistance now become such a big problem around the world that it should be added to that classic list of big global challenges that we need to work together to tackle?”

His comments come after the chief medical officer warned doctors must stop prescribing antibiotics so much to avert the “catastrophic threat” of superbugs.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said that without urgent action Britain’s health service will be return to the 19th century, with routine operations proving potentially lethal.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has also warned that there are “few” public health issues of greater importance.