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Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

New Zealand Food Safety is fighting back against superbugs – antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – and we need your help. 

“The World Health Organization has identified AMR as one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity,” says New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle.

“World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, which begins tomorrow, recognises that this serious issue will need a global effort to manage. This year’s theme is ‘preventing antimicrobial resistance together’.”

AMR occurs when microbes, or germs, develop resistance to medicines, such as antibiotics. Antimicrobial medicines are critical to human, animal, and plant health, as well as the environment, but they lose effectiveness over time if they are not properly handled and disposed of.

“Antibiotic medicines are essential to the health of humans, animals, and plants. If they are not used properly, diseases can develop resistance, which makes the medicine less effective,” says Mr Arbuckle.

“Everyone has a role to play to ensure the appropriate use and disposal of antibiotics in their care to prevent the spread of AMR in humans, animals, plants, and the environment.

“New Zealand Food Safety works to reduce AMR risks in domestic animals, livestock and plants with a dedicated team that works with the New Zealand veterinary and primary industry sectors to promote careful use of antibiotics and encourage infection prevention strategies such as good hygiene and vaccination, and undertake surveillance for resistance in bacteria collected from animal samples.”

Here’s what pet owners and livestock farmers can do to help reduce the risk:

  • Take measures to keep animals healthy, such as keeping up them up to date with vaccinations and using good hygiene and biosecurity.
  • If antibiotics are needed, closely follow the instructions outlined by your veterinarian. Make sure you give the correct dose, at the right time of day, and for the prescribed duration.
  • Wash your hands after dosing and handling animals.
  • Make sure your animal completes the prescribed course. If for some reason you are unable to complete the course, let your veterinarian know so they can help you.
  • Never keep antibiotics for future use because each infection and animal need unique treatment.
  • Dispose of the empty containers appropriately to help keep the environment safe.

“In further good news, our 2022 Antibiotic agricultural compound sales analysis shows quantities of antibiotics used in animals have been declining for the last 5 years, with a 23% reduction. However we need to continue our efforts to preserve the effectiveness of lifesaving medicines,” says Mr Arbuckle. 

Media release: Sales of antibiotics used in animals and plants down by nearly a quarter

New Zealand Food Safety takes a One Health approach to AMR, working closely with the Ministry of Health including on the joint New Zealand antimicrobial resistance action plan – with an updated plan due for publication in 2024.

New Zealand antimicrobial resistance action plan [PDF, 836KB]

Find out more